When thinking about laws, workplace policies, or school rules, one might notice who they influence. New research from the University of New Mexico finds whether interventions to reduce workplace bullying, help with weight loss, or enhance student engagement, people show a gender bias in how they feel.
UNM Assistant Professor of Psychology, Tanya Reynolds, has published new research showing that people prefer interventions when they harm men rather than women. The paper was published in Archives of Sexual Behavior.
She and international colleagues Maja Grasso and Carl Aquino discovered this through three different studies, each using a variety of scenarios.
Previous work by Reynolds found that people display bias in their tendency to classify individuals as victims or perpetrators, which is known as moral smearing. Her work has found that people readily categorize women as victims and men as perpetrators.
“People’s assumptions about who is the victim and who is the perpetrator differ according to their gender. People tend to portray men as perpetrators and women as victims. This project built on those findings by examining how people assess harm, when that harm is unintentional and results from interventions aimed at helping people,” Reynolds said.
Often, interventions are equal and do not negatively affect one population group over another. However, there are plenty of cases where policies or interventions carry negative externalities, known as collateral damage.
“Most policies have trade-offs where some individuals benefit, and others either remain unaffected or are actively harmed,” Reynolds said. “How do people assess these costs? If it is the case that one sex benefits while the other is harmed, does that affect whether people rate the intervention or policy as worthwhile?”
Grasso and Reynolds presented the participants with scenarios describing various interventions, such as workplace harassment reduction programs, medical treatment for chronic pain, and interventions to increase students’ sense of belonging in the classroom.
For each program participant assessed, they were told that the intervention benefited one gender, but harmed the other. However, the participants were randomly assigned to their gender status, so sometimes men are helped and women are harmed, or vice versa.
“There may be some programs that are being done at the state level or across the education system, or within organizations where either gender is not liked or gets collateral damage,” Reynolds said.
People would have preferred when men were harmed and women benefited, but in both studies it was largely the female participants who showed gender bias, not the male participants. Women do not want other women to be harmed, while men appear to be more equitable, as they are equally likely to endorse treatments or interventions, whether they harm men or women.
“In this context, people were more supportive of the intervention if men found it offensive than if women found it offensive,” Reynolds said. “They supported the interventions more strongly if the men experienced health disabilities, decreased learning, increased chronic pain, or decreased motivation to get work, than when women experienced the same costs.”
Often, women, and those who identified as feminists, gave thumbs up when policies negatively affected men, while preferring those that benefited women.
This was the case in every scenario.
“What we found was that other than just the gender of the participants, the people who most strongly endorsed egalitarianism or feminism displayed these gender biases to greater degrees,” Reynolds said.
There are theories about why these decisions were made. Although there are no confirmed explanations, Reynolds believes there is a historical component.
“Both ideologies have to do with righting historical injustices, so maybe that’s part of the reason why people advocate hurting men,” she said. “Throughout history, women have typically had to sacrifice in contexts such as caring for the elderly or infants. Similarly, women have not had the same jobs or educational opportunities. Perhaps people who identify as feminists or feminists see that men have benefited throughout history, and so they are now They rate it as just if men suffer and women gain an advantage.”
She also thinks that some of the credit may go to evolutionary psychology. Throughout human history, many societies have practiced patriarchy, with women residing with their husbands’ families rather than their own.
“The women were with their husbands’ families, and they were trying to figure out who in this group they could trust when they might not have known anyone. Women need to find ways to recruit allies and know who to trust,” Reynolds said. . “Women who showed loyalty and care to other women might have been chosen as allies. This means that pro-women bias allowed women to better recruit social support.”
Reynolds believes there are significant societal implications in these types of results. For example, women policymakers may introduce policies that reduce harm to women, but perhaps not to men.
“Is the intervention or policy worthwhile? We have a hard time putting our personal preferences aside and who knows, maybe we shouldn’t. It’s just worth noting that this bias exists, so that in this way we can be more fully informed about the policies we adopt or the interventions we implement. They may not We are equal as we think.”
She advises putting on the veil of ignorance when deciding how to intervene fairly.
“What’s considered fair is that if you’re going to trade places with someone else, do you want the same outcome? I think that might be a good way to decide whether or not something is fair. You can blind people who’ve been hurt and ask them if that’s the case,” Reynolds said. damage is acceptable.
Either way, there is a lot to explore when it comes to understanding the sources of these biases.
“I would be interested in combining my two lines of research on assessing the harm and challenges our ancestors faced throughout human history,” Reynolds said. “Perhaps one way you can test whether women tend to prefer other women who have pro-female biases is to present to participants hypotheses that either generally take the side of women or show no gender preference. be her friend.”
Although this innovative research took time and patience, Reynolds thinks it’s worth it.
“We had a hard time getting this paper published. It shows you have to be flexible and believe in your work,” said Reynolds. “It feels beautiful and makes the research worthwhile — a good reminder that perseverance pays off.”
Maja Grasso et al., worth the risk? greater acceptance of robotic harm inflicted on men than women, Archives of Sexual Behavior (2023). DOI: 10.1007/s10508-023-02571-0
the quote: Research Examines How Gender Impacts Choices (2023, May 10), Retrieved May 10, 2023 from https://phys.org/news/2023-05-gender-impacts-choices.html
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