and people low in hostile sexism. In addition, we examined the role that those perceptions play inmediating the effect of sexist humor on tolerance of sexism more generally. Finally, we examinedwhether individual differences in hostile sexism moderate the effect of sexist humor on men'sstereotypes of women.
EFFECTS OF SEXIST HUMOR UPON PERCEPTIONS OF SOCIAL NORMS
Humor as a medium for communicating derision undermines the seriousness of the underlyingsentiment (e.g. Attardo, 1993; Berlyne, 1972; Bill & Naus, 1992; McGhee, 1972). Speci®cally, itactivates a conversational rule to switch from the usual serious mindset to a playful or noncriticalmindset for interpreting the underlying message (Attardo, 1993; Berlyne, 1972; Mannell, 1977;McGhee, 1972; Sev'er & Ungar, 1997; Ziv & Gadish, 1990). Berlyne (1972), for instance, suggestedthat, `Humor is accompanied by discriminativecues, which indicate that what is happening, or isgoingto happen, should be taken as a joke. The ways in which we might react to the same events in theabsence of these cues become inappropriate and must be withheld' (p. 56). Accordingly, Ford (2000)suggested that by making light of the expression of sexism, sexist humor communicates a `meta-message' (Attardo, 1993) or normative standard that, in this context, sexism need not be takenseriously or scrutinized in a critical manner.Wepropose,however,thatwhetherornotsexisthumoractuallycreatestheimplicitnormoftoleranceofsexismdepends onwhether ornotitissuccessfulÐwhetherthereceiveralso switches toa noncriticalmindsetforinterpreting the underlyingderision. When the receiverswitchestoa noncriticalmindset,heor she tacitly consents to a shared understanding (a social norm) that it is acceptable in this context tomakelightofsexismÐtotreatitinalight-hearted,noncriticalmanner(seeEmerson,1969;Francis,1988;Khoury, 1985 for similar arguments regarding the communication of socially inappropriate sentimentsthroughhumor).Thereceiver'sacceptanceofthesexisthumor,then,contributestotheconstructionofanimplicit local norm of tolerance of sexism. Furthermore, as a result of its salience in the immediatecontext, this local norm of tolerance of sexism may essentially replace broader norms of appropriateconduct(Bodenhausen&Macrae,1998;Cialdini,Kallgren,&Reno,1991).Consequently,inthecontextof sexist humor, instances of sexism are likely to seem
socially inappropriate.In contrast, the receiver could recognize the inappropriateness of switching to a playful mindset forinterpreting sexist sentiments (Apt, 1987; Barker, 1994; Mannell, 1977; Sev'er & Ungar, 1997), andthus challenge (reject) the normative standard suggested by the humor (Attardo, 1993; Francis, 1988).The receiver's opposition to sexist humor implies that there is
a shared understanding that it isacceptable to make light of sexism.In fact, whenthe joke teller knows that the receiverhas rejected thehumor he or she is likely to `take it back' and similarly oppose a noncritical interpretation of theunderlying sentiment (Johnson, 1990; Kane, Suls, & Tedeschi, 1977). The receiver's opposition tosexist humor, then, prevents the construction of a local normative standard of tolerance of sexism. As aresult, the broader nonsexist standards of conduct should not be displaced by the sexist humor, andinstances of sexism should still be perceived as socially inappropriate. Consistent with this reasoning,Ford (2000, Experiments 2 and 3) found that when participants high in hostile sexism were induced tointerpret sexist jokes in a serious or critical manner (as they would nonhumorous communication), theeffect of the sexist humor on tolerance of a sexist event was nulli®ed.
Individual Differences in Hostile Sexism
We further propose that individual differences in hostile sexism moderate the extent to which peopleconsent to or oppose the implication of sexist humor that derision of women need not be taken
2001 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.
Eur. J. Soc. Psychol.
, 677±691 (2001)