Psychology Ph.D. Dissertations


Motivated Stereotyping of Women: Sources of Justification for Derogating Female Therapists

Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)



First Advisor

Anne Gordon, Ph.D. (Committee Chair)

Second Advisor

Scott Highhouse, Ph.D. (Committee Member)

Third Advisor

Carlton Rockett, Ph.D. (Committee Member)

Fourth Advisor

Annette Mahoney, Ph.D. (Committee Member)


Previous research (Sinclair and Kunda, 2000) suggests that students and employees may rate female professors and managers who deliver negative feedback more negatively than their male counterparts. This finding is thought to result from participants’ applying the stereotype that women are less competent than men to protect their threatened self-esteem. In the current research, I examined the potential for motivated stereotyping of women to occur within the context of psychological therapy. I expected female, more than male, therapists (portrayed through typed stimulus materials and a photograph) to be derogated by participants after providing negative feedback because doing so: a) activates participants' motivation to protect their self-esteem, b) allows for use of readily available negative stereotypes about women, and c) violates the expectation that females will be kind. However, negative feedback can be provided in a relatively kind manner and, therefore, not violate the female-gender-role expectation of kindness. Therefore, in the current research I varied the type of feedback (positive or negative) and the manner in which negative feedback (e.g., blunt, negative feedback or negative-but-kind feedback) was presented. In addition to the primary dependent variable of derogation, I also assessed stereotype activation in order to examine the aforementioned process thought to underlie the derogation of professional women who provide negative feedback. Using a role-play methodology, 176 undergraduate students were randomly assigned to one of six conditions within a 3 [Type of Feedback: (positive, blunt negative, negative-but-kind)] x 2 [Sex of Therapist: (male, female)] between-subjects factorial design. Five hypotheses were proposed; partial support was found for 2 of the 5 hypotheses. To the extent that the methodology allowed for a clear test of these hypotheses, it is possible that the role of psychotherapist may represent a context to which previously proposed theory and results do not apply. Thus, consistent with role congruity theory, females may avoid the previously documented patterns of motivated derogation within certain female-dominated professions (Eagly & Karau, 2002).