Seeing the unseen: Attention to daily encounters with sexism as way to reduce sexist beliefs

Julia C. Becker, Janet K. Swim

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

139 Scopus citations


Three experiments were conducted in the United States and Germany to test whether women and men endorse sexist beliefs because they are unaware of the prevalence of different types of sexism in their personal lives. Study 1 (N = 120) and Study 2 (N = 83) used daily diaries as a method to encourage individuals "to see the unseen." Results revealed that encouraging women to pay attention to sexism, in comparison to attention to other social interactions, led to a stronger rejection of Modern Sexist, Neosexist, and Benevolent Sexist beliefs (Studies 1 and 2) and to negative evaluations of Modern and Benevolent Sexist men described in profiles as well as to more engagement in collective action on behalf of women (Study 2). In contrast, for men, paying attention to sexism did not have these effects. Results from Study 2 suggest, and from Study 3 (N = 141) confirm, that men's endorsement of Modern and Neosexist beliefs can be reduced if attention to sexism and emotional empathy for the target of discrimination is encouraged. Finally, a follow-up survey indicated that the attitude change in women and men was stable over time. The implications of these findings for interventions to reduce women's versus men's endorsement of sexist beliefs are discussed.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)227-242
Number of pages16
JournalPsychology of Women Quarterly
Issue number2
StatePublished - Jun 2011

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Gender Studies
  • Developmental and Educational Psychology
  • Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous)
  • Psychology(all)


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