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Self-silencing in Response to
Sexist Behavior: Exploring Women's
Willingness to Confront Sexism

By Marie Sabbagh, Tess Hare, Erika Wheelhouse, and Holly McFarland | Mentor: Dr. Erin Murdoch



The sample consisted of 29 female undergraduate students from the University of Central Florida with a mean age of 28.40 years (SD = 8.80). The majority of students participated to earn extra credit in psychology courses. The sample was predominantly White (79.3%) with the remaining participants disclosing their ethnic group as Hispanic (13.8%) and African American (6.9%). Participants were randomly assigned to one of two experimental conditions.


Prior to the participant entering the experiment room, two female confederates who were posing as participants were seated. Eight European-American female research assistants took turns, based on availabilities, posing as one of the two confederates. The research assistants varied in physical appearance and age from the mid-20s to mid-40s. An experimenter informed participants that the purpose of the study was to evaluate decision-making processes involved in choosing contestants for a realitybased show. The participants were told their discussion would be audiotaped, and consent disclosures were signed. Each participant, along with two confederates, was asked to review twenty mock applications of potential contestants and choose ten of these potential contestants to undertake specific duties. The reality show was described as a mock televised program where ten people would live under the same roof. Contestant applications included contestants' first names, marital status, employment description, number of children, level of academic achievement, and five words contestants supposedly wrote to describe their personalities. The household positions consisted of Head of Household, Main Housekeeper, Groundskeeper, Activities Coordinator, General Maintenance, Athletic Trainer, Main Cook, Finance Manager, Main Shopper, and Assistant Shopper. The experimenter started the audiotape and exited the room, leaving the group ten minutes to select contestants for the ten positions.

The study was designed with two conditions. In Condition 1, a sexist remark made by Confederate #1 was confronted verbally by Confederate #2; in Condition 2, the sexist remark was ignored by Confederate #2. The two-condition design presented the opportunity to study any possible effect of modeling confronting behavior on the participants' willingness to confront sexist remarks.

In both conditions, Confederate #2 left the room before a second sexist remark was made by Confederate #1, leaving the participant free to self-silence or to confront the comment without the presence of another person. Confederate #2 pretended to receive an important phone call in order to exit the room. The first sexist comment was made in regard to choosing a main housekeeper and scripted as, "Here's Amanda, a stay-at-home mom; they'll need someone to do the cleaning." The second comment was made pertaining to choosing a main cook and scripted as "They'll definitely need a woman in the kitchen. A man shouldn't have to do the cooking." Although the selection process was scripted, the Housekeeper comment and the Cook comment were the main focus of the study. In Condition 1, the first sexist remark was confronted verbally by Confederate #2 and scripted as "That's a little sexist; a woman doesn't have to do the cleaning."

After all selections had been made, or at the end of the ten minutes allotted, the experimenter re-entered the room, stopped the tape recorder, and collected the materials. The experimenter asked the participant to move to a different room to complete a questionnaire in privacy and informed the two confederates to wait in the conference room while other private rooms were located.


The study questionnaire consisted of several individual difference measures and a demographic survey.

Self-Silencing Scale (Jack & Dill 1992)

The Silencing the Self Scale assesses the extent to which women suppress their internal thoughts and feelings. Participants completed this 31-item measure using a 5 point scale (1 = strongly disagree, 5 = strongly agree) (Cronbach's a = .85).

Ten Item Personality Inventory (Gosling, Rentfrow, & Swann 2003)

The TIPI is a 10 item measure of the Big Five dimensions. The TIPI uses only two characteristics to measure each personality dimension, and has been shown to be a valid measure for personality (Gosling et al. 2003).

Public Self-Consciousness Scale (Scheier & Carver 1985)

This 7-item scale measures participants' concern with how they appear to others. Participants responses were made using a 5-point scale (0 = extremely uncharacteristic of me, 4 = extremely characteristic of me) (Cronbach's a = .78).

Self-Monitoring Scale (Snyder 1974)

The Self-Monitoring Scale determines to what extent people are concerned about how they are perceived by others and if they will change their behavior to adapt to different situations. Responses were made on a five-point scale ranging from strongly disagree (-2) to strongly agree (+2) (Cronbach's a = .68).


This survey, created by the experimenters, included questions for gender, age, and race. Several questions were also aimed at determining if the participant was aware of the sexist remarks made throughout the contestant selection process. The inquiries were stated such as, "During the study, did you think any remarks made by the other participants were inappropriate?" and "If yes, did you say anything?" and "If no, why?"

Results >>