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European Journal of Social Psychology Eur. J. Soc. Psychol.

33, 297312 (2003)


Published online 12 November 2002 in Wiley InterScience (www.interscience.wiley.com). DOI: 10.1002/ejsp.147

Womens emotional responses to the pervasiveness of gender discrimination


MICHAEL T. SCHMITT,1 NYLA R. BRANSCOMBE1* AND TOM POSTMES2
1 2

University of Kansas, USA University of Exeter, UK

Abstract In two experiments we found that women exhibited worse psychological well-being in a context in which gender discrimination was pervasive compared to a context in which is was rare. In Study 1, women who read an essay suggesting that sexism is pervasive reported lower self-esteem than women who read an essay suggesting that sexism is rare. In Study 2, we examined the effects of the pervasiveness of sexism when women were making an attribution for a single negative outcome. Women who attributed a negative evaluation to pervasive sexism exhibited less positive self-esteem and affect compared to women who could attribute the negative evaluation to an isolated instance of discrimination or to a non-sexist, external cause. Copyright # 2002 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.

Social psychologists studying the consequences of perceiving the self as a target of discrimination have almost exclusively focused on specic instances in which a single prejudiced individual discriminates against a single stigmatized individual. In that sense, the literature on prejudice from the targets perspective has thus far focused on the localized implications of a discriminatory event in which only a few individuals are interacting. However, experiences with discrimination are not simply interpersonal phenomena. As emphasized by social identity theory (Tajfel & Turner, 1986), discrimination is an intergroup phenomenon that results from an internalization of group membership and serves to privilege certain social groups while disadvantaging others. In that sense, experiences with discrimination are not limited to specic situations in which members of a disadvantaged group encounter a prejudiced personality, but can occur in nearly any situation in which a member of a disadvantaged group interacts with a member of a more privileged group. We take an intergroup approach to the phenomenology of encounters with discrimination and consider targets understanding of the larger social structural context in which individual instances of discrimination are embedded. In two experimental studies of womens psychological responses to discrimination, we compare the consequences of encountering discrimination when it is pervasive in society compared to when it is rare.
*Correspondence to: Nyla R. Branscombe, Department of Psychology, 1415 Jayhawk Blvd, University of Kansas, 66045-7556 USA. E-mail: nyla@ku.edu

Copyright # 2002 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.

Received 21 January 2002 Accepted 26 July 2002

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We suggest that when members of a disadvantaged social group perceive their ingroup as a target of discrimination, the consequences depend on the pervasiveness of discrimination (Schmitt & Branscombe, 2002b). From the perspective of social identity theory, pervasive discrimination against ones ingroup implies that ones social identitythe self dened at the group levelis low status and devalued. When discrimination against the ingroup is pervasive, the difference in outcomes and status between the ingroup and more privileged outgroups is clearly greater than when discrimination against the ingroup is thought to be isolated and rare. Group-based, or collective, self-esteem derives from intergroup social comparisons between the ingroup and relevant outgroups (Tajfel & Turner, 1986). Thus, when members of disadvantaged groups perceive discrimination as pervasive, they are more acutely aware of their lower status and lowered collective self-esteem is likely to result. As stressed by social identity theory, group memberships convey important information about our place in the social world, telling us who we can expect to accept us, and who we can expect to reject us (Tajfel & Turner, 1986). Therefore, pervasive discrimination from a more powerful outgroup implies the exclusion of ones social identity outside of the realm of normals by those with the power to dene what is normal and abnormal in society (Goffman, 1963; Tajfel, 1978). Many social psychological theories suggest that experiencing such rejection and devaluation harms psychological well-being (e.g. Baumeister & Leary, 1995; Mead, 1934; Rosenberg, 1979), and empirical evidence suggests that it indeed does result in anxiety, depression, hopelessness, and lowered self-esteem (Baumeister & Tice, 1990; Bowlby, 1973; Frable, 1993; Leary, Tambor, Terdal, & Downs, 1995; Williams, Shore, & Grahe, 1998). When ones social group is seen as a target of pervasive discrimination, discrimination is likely to be expected across situations, and thus will lead to expectations of future negative treatment as one moves through different social contexts. Such perceptions of rejection and devaluation are antithetical to the furtherance of hopeful thinking (Snyder, 1994, p. 146) and are a major cause of depressed affect (Brown & Siegel, 1988; Golin, Sweeney, & Shaeffer, 1981; Robins, 1988; Weiner, 1985). Encountering pervasive discrimination among the disadvantaged is likely to reduce feelings of control precisely because it discounts ones own role in controlling outcomes across a wide variety of situations (Major & Crocker, 1993). Efcacy-based approaches to self-esteem (Bandura, 1997) suggest that the perception of control over ones outcomes is an important component of well-being. Although the hypothesis that perceptions of pervasive discrimination will be harmful to psychological well-being is relatively uncontroversial, the consequences of attributing a specic negative outcome to pervasive discrimination are potentially more complex. For instance, attributions to discrimination could have some self-protective consequences because they externalize blame for the negative outcomes away from the self to the prejudiced other (Crocker & Major, 1989; Major, Quinton, & McCoy, 2002). This is especially likely when attributions to discrimination are compared with attributions to ones sense of personal deservingness, or to attributions to internal, stable, and global aspects of the individual self (Crocker & Major, 1989, p. 163). On the other hand, considering attributions to discrimination from an intergroup perspective calls for a consideration of how such attributions might differ for groups that differ in their social structural position. Schmitt and Branscombe (2002b) argued that attributions to discrimination differ for privileged and disadvantaged groups in terms of the pervasiveness of discrimination that these groups face. Focusing on the relative pervasiveness of discrimination that disadvantaged groups encounter, Schmitt and Branscombe concluded that attributions to discrimination are likely to have negative psychological consequences, especially in comparison to when such attributions are made by members of privileged groups. The argument put forth here is not that attributions to discrimination are always harmful, but that pervasive
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discrimination can magnify the negative consequences (and reduce any potential self-protective implications) of an attribution to discrimination for a specic negative event. Attributions are more than explanations for single events; they provide us with expectations for future events and other situations (Heider, 1958). When a specic negative outcome is attributed to pervasive discrimination it implies that one can expect to be treated negatively across both time and situations. In contrast, attributions to infrequent and isolated discrimination should have consequences similar to other situational explanations. In that sense, encountering a case of discrimination against ones social group can be more threatening and harmful to well-being when discrimination is pervasive rather than an isolated incident.

EXISTING EVIDENCE A number of empirical studies have conrmed that in disadvantaged groups such as women and ethnic minorities the perception of discrimination as being pervasive is negatively associated with well-being (Branscombe, Schmitt, & Harvey, 1999; Clark, Anderson, Clark, & Williams, 1999; Klonoff & Landrine, 1999; Klonoff, Landrine, & Campbell, 2000; Kobrynowicz & Branscombe, 1997; Landrine, Klonoff, Gibbs, Manning, & Lund, 1995; Williams, Yu, Jackson, & Anderson, 1997). Other studies have compared the consequences of perceptions of discrimination in groups that differ in terms of the actual pervasiveness of discrimination they face. If the pervasiveness of discrimination makes a difference in the sense that it has additional negative psychological consequences, experiencing a discriminatory event should be more harmful for members of disadvantaged groups than for members of privileged groups. Empirical research conrms that women perceive discrimination as relatively pervasive, but men report discrimination experiences that are relatively rare and isolated (Branscombe, 1998; Eagly, 1987; Schmitt, Branscombe, Kobrynowicz, & Owen, 2002; Stewart, Vassar, Sanchez, & David, 2000). More to the point, several empirical investigations suggest that such differences in how discrimination is perceived result in differential costs of perceiving discrimination among women and men. Schmitt et al. (2002) found that womens perceptions of discrimination were negatively correlated with well-being, but mens perceptions of discrimination were not. In an experimental study, Schmitt and Branscombe (2002a) found that women reported more negative affect than men when considering being the target of gender discrimination, but women and men did not report different levels of negative affect when considering being rejected by someone who was negative to everyone (i.e. a situation in which attributional stability does not differ for men and women). In further support of the differential costs of perceiving discrimination among men and women, Branscombe (1998) found that men thinking about the ways they are disadvantaged felt better about themselves than men thinking about the benets of their gender group membership. Women, however, showed the reverse trend. These studies support the idea that groups who actually differ in terms of the pervasiveness of discrimination they encounter are differentially affected by attributions to discrimination. Although the research described above is consistent with the idea that to perceive discrimination as pervasive is harmful to well-being, this evidence does have its limitations. Correlational research nding a negative association between perceptions of discrimination and well-being does not demonstrate causality. One could argue that the negative relationship between pervasive perceptions of discrimination and well-being could result from the reverse causal directionthat individuals who are maladjusted or are generally sensitive to rejection tend to see the world as out to get them and are consequently more likely to see themselves as the target of discrimination. Correlations between perceptions of discrimination and well-being could also be inated by actual experience with discrimination, which presumably would lead to greater perceptions of discrimination and lowered
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well-being (Major et al., 2002). Similarly, nding that perceptions of discrimination are more harmful for members of disadvantaged groups than for privileged groups relies on naturally occurring differences in the amount of discrimination these groups face, and thus only indirectly supports the idea that encountering pervasive discrimination is more harmful than encountering isolated cases of discrimination. Furthermore, when comparing natural groups, it is difcult to assess the effects of perceptions of discrimination pervasiveness independently of the effects of actual experience with discrimination.

OVERVIEW OF THE CURRENT STUDIES We addressed these limitations in two experiments that manipulated womens perceptions of the pervasiveness of gender discrimination. Because we randomly assigned participants to condition, we can examine the consequences of pervasive discrimination for psychological well-being independently of participants actual experiences with discrimination. In Study 1, we examined the effects of the pervasiveness of discrimination on womens self-esteem. We predicted that women who were told that sexism is pervasive would have lower self-esteem than women who were told that gender discrimination is a rare occurrence. In Study 2, we examined the effects of the pervasiveness of discrimination when women were making an attribution to discrimination for a single negative outcome. We predicted that participants would experience lower self-esteem and more negative affect when attributing a negative outcome to discrimination in the context of pervasive sexism compared to when discrimination was more isolated.

STUDY 1 In order to test the hypothesis that encountering discrimination harms psychological well-being more when it is pervasive compared to when it is relatively rare, we presented women with an essay that suggested discrimination against women is a rare occurrence, or that it is a pervasive phenomenon. After reading this information, participants completed measures of self-esteem. We predicted that women in the pervasive discrimination condition would exhibit lower self-esteem than women in the rare discrimination condition. Method Participants and Procedure Participants were undergraduate women (N 80) participating for credit in an introductory psychology course. A female experimenter met participants in small groups of 510, but participants were not given the opportunity to interact during the session. Within each experimental session, we randomly assigned participants to read an essay suggesting that sexism was either rare or pervasive. We manipulated the pervasiveness of discrimination by varying the description of how common discrimination is across contexts, and by varying the extent to which men in general share sexist attitudes and intentions. In the Rare Sexism condition, participants read an essay titled Reductions in Sexism that suggested gender discrimination is a relatively rare phenomenon: As you are probably aware, discrimination against women is becoming less common in many important areas of life. Women now face relatively infrequent discrimination in employment,
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salary, education, politics, the courtroom, and in everyday interpersonal interactions. Many economists predict that the salaries of men and women who perform similar jobs will be equal by the year 2005. Recent psychological research has shown that between 90 and 95% of men hold non-sexist attitudes and refuse to discriminate against women even if given the opportunity to do so. Men generally see women as competent, rational, and strong. In a survey of American men last year, only 6.5% said that they thought women should stay home and raise kids. In contrast, the Pervasive Sexism condition participants read an essay titled The Pervasiveness of Sexism that suggested that sexism is pervasive: As you are probably aware, women still face widespread discrimination and sexism in many important areas of life. Women still routinely face discrimination and inequality in employment, salary, education, politics, the courtroom, and in everyday interpersonal interactions. Women make only 75% of what men do, even for the same job and when they have equal amounts of experience. Recent psychological research has shown that between 90 and 95% of men hold sexist attitudes and will discriminate against women if given the opportunity. Men generally rate women as incompetent, irrational, and weak. In a survey of American men last year, over 65% said that they thought women should stay home and raise kids. Manipulation Checks We measured the effectiveness of the manipulation of sexisms pervasiveness in a number of ways. We asked participants What percentage of men are prejudiced against women? Participants responded on a scale ranging from 0 to 100% in increments of 10%. We also assessed expectations for the frequency of encountering discrimination with the question How often do you personally expect to face gender discrimination? to which participants responded on 1 to 7 (never to very often) scale. We also measured the extent to which participants perceived that their gender group was devalued by others, using a version of Luhtanen and Crockers (1992) measure of public collective self-esteem modied to be specic to gender (e.g. In general, others respect my gender group). To form an index of public collective self-esteem, we averaged responses to the four individual items, to which participants responded on a 1 to 5 (strongly disagree to strongly agree) response scale (alpha 0.86). Dependent Measures We determined self-esteem using two measures. We calculated private collective self-esteem (CSE) using Luhtanen and Crockers (1992) measure modied to apply specically to ones gender group (e.g. In general, Im glad to be a member of my gender group). We created a summary score by averaging responses to the four items (alpha 0.78). Participants also completed Rosenbergs (1979) 10-item self-esteem inventory (alpha 0.88). Again, we averaged responses to the ten items to create a summary score. Participants responded to both self-esteem measures using a 1 to 5 (strongly disagree to strongly agree) response scale. The two indicators of self-esteem were moderately correlated, r(78) 0.41, p < 0.001. Legitimacy of Discrimination Because the perceived legitimacy of discrimination might moderate the psychological costs of perceived discrimination (Crocker & Major, 1994), we measured the perceived legitimacy of sexism
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with the item Treating women negatively based on their gender is justiable. Participants responded to the legitimacy measure on a 1 to 5 (strongly disagree to strongly agree) response scale. Debrieng After the questionnaires were collected, the experimenter explained that the true purpose of the study was to examine the effects of the perceived pervasiveness of discrimination. Because of the politically and emotionally sensitive nature of the manipulation, the experimenter was careful to make it clear to all of the participants that both versions of the essay contained bogus information, but that the pervasive version was more closely based on real statistics. Before participants left, we provided them with factual information about both gender inequality in the workforce (e.g. In 1996, women were paid 74 cents for every dollar men received) and positive achievements in womens history (e.g. In 1981, Sandra Day OConnor was appointed rst woman US Supreme Court justice). Results and Discussion Manipulation Checks Manipulation checks indicated that we successfully manipulated the perceived pervasiveness of discrimination against women. The percentage of men who were perceived as sexist was substantially higher in the Pervasive condition (M 51.25, SD 16.20) compared to the Rare condition (M 26.50, SD 15.78), t(78) 6.92, p < 0.001, one-tailed, d 1.57. Expectations of discrimination were higher in the Pervasive condition (M 4.50, SD 1.24) compared to the Rare condition (M 3.10, SD 1.19), t(78) 5.14, p < 0.001, one-tailed, d 1.16. Public collective self-esteem was lower in the Pervasive condition (M 3.69, SD 0.66) compared to the Rare condition (M 4.10, SD 0.56), t(78) 2.97, p 0.002, one-tailed, d 0.67. Self-esteem Because we intended both measures of self-esteem to serve as indicators of womens emotional responses to discrimination, we conducted a mixed-model ANOVA with the pervasiveness manipulation as the between-subjects factor, and the type of self-esteem measure as a within-subjects factor. The advantage of this approach is that it allows us to examine the multivariate effect of the experimental manipulation as well as the possibility that the manipulation differentially affected the two aspects of self-esteem. We standardized both measures of self-esteem before conducting the mixed-model analysis. As shown in Table 1, self-esteem was lower in the Pervasive condition compared to the Rare condition, F(1, 78) 4.77, p 0.032, d 0.49. The manipulation by scale type interaction was not reliable, indicating that the manipulation did not affect the two self-esteem measures in reliably different ways, F(1, 78) 0.10, p 0.754. At the univariate level, Rosenberg selfesteem was lower in the Pervasive condition (M 4.03, SD 0.61) than in the Rare condition (M 4.29, SD 0.53), t(78) 2.00, p 0.025, one-tailed, d 0.45.1 Private collective self-esteem was also lower in the Pervasive condition (M 4.33, SD 0.51) compared to the Rare condition (M 4.51, SD 0.44), t(78) 1.64, p 0.053, one-tailed, d 0.37. In sum, women who were led to
1 To assess the possibility that the manipulation differentially affected positive and negative aspects of self-esteem, we conducted separate analyses on the positively and negatively worded items of the Rosenberg scale. The effect of condition was reliable for both positive, t(78) 1.74, p 0.043, one-tailed, and negative self-esteem, t(78) 1.97, p 0.026, one-tailed.

Copyright # 2002 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.

Eur. J. Soc. Psychol. 33, 297312 (2003)

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Table 1. Means and standard deviations of self-esteem by attribution condition, Study 1 Attribution condition Dependent variable Rosenberg self-esteem Private collective self-esteem Rare Sexism 4.29 (0.53) 4.51 (0.44) Pervasive Sexism 4.03 (0.61) 4.33 (0.51)

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Note: Higher scores reect more positive self-esteem. Responses were made on 15 scales.

see discrimination against them as pervasive experienced a more negative emotional response compared to women who were led to see discrimination as rare.

Legitimacy of Discrimination Encountering discrimination is more likely to be harmful when discrimination is perceived as legitimate, but less harmful and potentially self-protective when discrimination is perceived as illegitimate (Crocker & Major, 1994). Thus, we examined two possible alternative explanations for our ndings by assessing legitimacy. First, it is possible that the manipulation of pervasiveness could have affected perceptions of the legitimacy of discrimination, and that differences in legitimacy, not pervasiveness, account for the observed effects. Second, the negative psychological consequences of pervasiveness that we observed might only emerge in the context of legitimate discrimination, but not occur in the context of illegitimate discrimination. However, perceptions of the legitimacy of gender discrimination were extremely low and identical in the Rare (M 1.18, SD 0.55) and Pervasive conditions (M 1.18, SD 0.38). Thus, although perceived legitimacy is a potentially important moderator of the consequences of attributions to discrimination, the effects we observed on selfesteem in this study do not appear to be due to perceptions of legitimacy.

STUDY 2 The results of Study 1 supported the hypothesis that perceiving discrimination as pervasive harms womens self-esteem relative to perceiving discrimination as rare. In Study 2, we tested the hypothesis that attributing a specic negative outcome to gender discrimination is more harmful to self-esteem and affect when the discrimination occurs in the context of pervasive bias compared to when discrimination comes from a single biased individual. In Study 2, female participants took part in a mock job interview and received negative feedback concerning their performance. In two of the experimental conditions, participants learned that their evaluator was biased against women, making discrimination a plausible attribution for the negative feedback. In one of those conditions, discrimination was rareparticipants were told that the other 19 evaluators were not biased. In the other condition, discrimination was pervasiveparticipants were told that all 20 evaluators were biased against women. In a third condition, the negative feedback was attributable to the evaluators negative disposition. We included this condition in order to compare the consequences of an attribution to discrimination with those of an external attribution. Because attributions to discrimination shift responsibility for the
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negative outcome from the self to the prejudiced person, they may have emotional consequences similar to external attributions (Crocker & Major, 1989). From our perspective, the extent to which the emotional consequences of attributions to discrimination are comparable to the consequences of external attributions will depend on the pervasiveness of discrimination. While attributions to isolated discrimination may have psychological consequences similar to external attributions, attributions to pervasive discrimination will be more costly. Therefore, we predicted that women who could plausibly attribute their negative treatment to pervasive discrimination would exhibit lower self-esteem and more negative affect compared to both of the other conditions. Furthermore, by comparing an external attribution to both rare and pervasive discrimination attributions, we were able to test the alternate prediction that even attributions to rare discrimination result in more negative emotional responses than an attribution to an external cause. Method Participants and Procedure Undergraduate women (N 71) receiving credit in their introductory psychology course participated in a mock job interview and received negative feedback. Participants were randomly assigned to one of three conditions that differed in terms of the explanation provided for their negative feedback. In one condition, the negative feedback was attributable to the interviewer having a negative disposition toward everyone. In the other two conditions, the feedback was attributable to gender discrimination that was either rare or pervasive. When the participant entered the lab, she was greeted by a female experimenter2 who stated that the purpose of the study was to investigate the psychological experience of the employment interview process. The experimenter then explained that the participant would be participating in a mock job interview with one of twenty business people from a nearby city who volunteered to help with the study. This group of volunteers was described as being experienced in recruitment and hiring processes, and representative of different types of employers (e.g. business, retail, real estate, service jobs). The experimenter told the participant explicitly that we had obtained a representative sample of the kind of people you are likely to encounter when you go on a real job search. Participants were told that they would receive feedback from the interviewer about their interview performance. Accordingly, participants were encouraged to do their best to create a good impression, as if applying for a real job. The participant was then given a list of ve questions that the interviewer would ask, and left alone for a few minutes to consider her responses. The questions were very general questions a potential employer might ask (e.g. What has been your best work experience? What skills do you have that will make you a good employee?), and served the function of standardizing the interview dialog. After a few minutes, the experimenter then led the participant into another room where she was introduced to the male interviewer who was a trained confederate dressed in business attire to look the part of an employer. The interviewer asked the questions on the interview list, but did not engage in a lot of other conversation to keep the interview dialog as constant across participants as possible. After asking all the questions, the interviewer led the participant back to their original room where the experimenter was waiting. The experimenter then explained that they would need to wait a few minutes for the interviewer to complete his evaluation. During this interval, the experimenter then delivered the experimental
2 Two pairs of experimenters (one female experimenter and one male confederate) conducted the study. For all of the manipulation checks and experimental variables, the main effect of experimenter pair was not reliable, ps > 0.34. Furthermore, experimenter pair did not interact with experimental condition for any of the experimental variables, ps > 0.4.

Copyright # 2002 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.

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manipulation by presenting explanations for their upcoming negative evaluation. In the Non-Sexist condition the experimenter said, Ive worked with all 20 of our interviewers, and this guy is a real jerk. He seems to give everyone a negative evaluation. All of the others are very reasonable and fair, but this guy doesnt seem to like anyone. In previous research, such information has been shown to lead to an external attribution (Schmitt & Branscombe, 2002a). In the Rare Sexism condition the female experimenter said, Ive worked with all 20 of our interviewers, and this guy seems really sexist. He gives almost all of the women negative evaluations, but is very positive toward the men. All of the others are very reasonable and fair, but this guy doesnt seem to like any women. In the Pervasive Sexism condition the female experimenter said, Ive worked with all 20 of our interviewers, and all of them, including this guy, seem really sexist. They give almost all of the women negative evaluations, but are very positive towards the men. None of them seem to like any women. The experimenter left to collect the evaluation and then gave it to the participant. The evaluation was negative and identical across conditions. The rst line of the evaluation sheet read Recommendation: accept or reject? and reject was circled. The evaluation form also included a number of dimensions on which participants received scores on a 1 to 5 (poorexcellent) scale: Social skills (2), Job skills (1), Verbal skills (1), Motivation (2), Creative potential (2), Intelligence (3), Overall evaluation (2). After receiving the evaluation, participants were given a questionnaire containing the dependent measures. The participant was left alone to complete the questionnaire.

Manipulation Checks We measured attributions to discrimination with the item My evaluation was mainly due to the interviewers gender bias. Participants responded to this item on a 1 to 7 (strongly disagree to strongly agree) scale. We assessed the manipulation of pervasiveness using Luhtanen and Crockers (1992) measure of public collective self-esteem modied to be specic to gender (alpha 0.90). Participants responded to the public CSE items on a 1 to 7 (strongly disagree to strongly agree) scale. We averaged responses to the four items to create a summary score.

Self-esteem and Affect We measured private collective self-esteem (CSE) using Luhtanen and Crockers (1992) measure of private collective self-esteem modied to be specic to gender (alpha 0.66). Participants responded to the CSE items on a 1 to 7 (strongly disagree to strongly agree) scale. We averaged responses to the individual items to create a summary CSE score. Participants also completed a measure of affect that consisted of a list of six emotions (angry, secure, agreeable, cooperative, active, ne) taken from the Multiple Affect Adjective Checklist (Zuckerman & Lubin, 1965). Participants were asked to indicate the extent to which they currently felt each of the emotions by responding on a 1 to 7 (not at all to very much) scale. We reverse-scored responses to the negative item and averaged responses across the six items to create a measure of positive affect (alpha 0.82). The affect and self-esteem measures were moderately correlated, r(57) 0.41, p 0.001.

Fairness and Legitimacy We also measured perceived fairness of the evaluation and the perceived legitimacy of discrimination against women in order to rule out their role in creating the observed experimental effects. Perceived
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fairness of the outcome was measured with the item, The interviewer evaluated me fairly, to which participants responded on a 1 to 7 (strongly disagree to strongly agree) scale. The perceived legitimacy of discrimination was measured with the item, Treating women negatively based on their gender is justiable to which participants responded on a 1 to 7 (strongly disagree to strongly agree) scale.

Debrieng After completing the questionnaire, participants were probed for suspicion and fully debriefed. The experimenter asked participants to recall what she had told the participant prior to her receiving her evaluation. No participants had difculty recalling the attribution manipulation (whether the one evaluator was a jerk, a sexist, or that all twenty evaluators were sexist). Twelve participants were excluded because they mentioned that they thought the study was about gender discrimination or that they thought their evaluation was bogus. Suspicion was not reliably related to experimental condition, 2(2) 2.48, p 0.29. After checking for suspicion, the experimenter explained the purpose of the experiment and made it clear that the evaluation had nothing to do with participants actual performance.

Results and Discussion Manipulation Checks As intended, attributions to gender bias differed by condition, F(2, 56) 7.09, p 0.002. Compared to the Non-Sexist condition (M 2.54, SD 1.32), attributions to discrimination were higher in both the Rare Sexism (M 4.10, SD 1.97) and Pervasive Sexism conditions (M 4.36, SD 1.74), t(56) 3.11, p 0.002, one-tailed, d 0.83, t(56) 3.22, p 0.001, one-tailed, d 0.86. Importantly, attributions to discrimination did not reliably differ between the Rare and Pervasive Sexism conditions, t(56) 0.453, p 0.652, d 0.12. Thus, any differences observed between the Rare and Pervasive Sexism conditions are not due to differences in the plausibility of attributions to discrimination. Public collective self-esteem also differed by condition, F(2, 56) 3.14, p 0.051. Public CSE was lower in the Pervasive Sexism condition (M 4.64, SD 1.41) compared to the Non-Sexist condition (M 5.50, SD 0.65), t(56) 2.39, p 0.010, one-tailed, d 0.64, and compared to the Rare Sexism condition (M 5.40, SD 1.20), t(56) 2.07, p 0.022, one-tailed, d 0.55. Public CSE did not differ reliably between the Non-Sexist and Rare Sexism conditions t(56) 0.30, p 0.768, d 0.08. To summarize, the manipulation worked as intended. Participants perceived their evaluation to be due to discrimination more in both the Rare and Pervasive Sexism conditions compared to the NonSexist condition. Furthermore, participants perceived their gender group to be less valued in the Pervasive condition compared to the other two conditions.

Private Collective Self-esteem and Affect As in Study 1, because we intended both private CSE and positive affect to serve as indicators of womens emotional responses to discrimination, we conducted a mixed-model ANOVA with the attribution manipulation as the between-subjects factor, and the type of measure as a within-subjects factor. We standardized both measures before conducting the mixed-model analysis. As shown in
Copyright # 2002 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd. Eur. J. Soc. Psychol. 33, 297312 (2003)

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Table 2. Means and standard deviations of self-esteem and affect by attribution condition, Study 2 Attribution condition Dependent variables Positive affect Private collective self-esteem NonSexist 5.03 (1.04) 6.24 (0.58) Rare Sexism 4.65 (1.12) 6.27 (0.83) Pervasive Sexism 3.76 (1.34) 5.75 (1.14)

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Note: Higher scores reect more positive self-esteem and affect. Responses were made on 17 scales.

Table 2, womens emotional responses to the attribution manipulation reliably differed by condition, F(2, 56) 4.90, p 0.011. The manipulation by scale type interaction was not reliable, indicating that the manipulation did not affect the two emotion measures in reliably different ways, F(2, 56) 0.88, p 0.422. At the univariate level, private CSE was lower in the Pervasive Sexism condition (M 5.75, SD 1.14) compared to the Non-Sexist condition (M 6.24, SD 0.58), t(56) 1.76, p 0.042, one-tailed, d 0.47, and compared to the Rare Sexism condition (M 6.27, SD 0.83), t(56) 1.84, p 0.036, one-tailed, d 0.49. Private CSE did not reliably differ between the Non-Sexist and Rare Sexism conditions, t(56) 0.14, p 0.445, one-tailed, d 0.04. Positive affect was lower in the Pervasive Sexism condition (M 3.76, SD 1.34) compared to the Non-Sexist condition (M 5.03, SD 1.04), t(56) 3.29, p 0.001, one-tailed, d 0.88, and compared to the Rare Sexism condition (M 4.65, SD 1.12), t(56) 2.25, p 0.014, one-tailed, d 0.60. Positive affect did not differ reliably between the Non-Sexist and Rare Sexism conditions, t(75) 1.10, p 0.139, onetailed, d 0.29. In sum, participants exhibited lower private CSE and positive affect when their negative evaluation was attributable to pervasive discrimination, compared to when their negative evaluation was attributable to more isolated discrimination. Women making attributions to isolated discrimination did not differ in terms of self-esteem or affect compared to women making an external attribution to their evaluators negative personality. Fairness and Legitimacy Perceptions of fairness did not reliably differ between the Non-Sexist (M 2.67, SD 1.13), Rare Sexism (M 2.52, SD 1.25), and Pervasive Sexism conditions (M 2.64, SD 1.39), F(2, 56) 0.08, p 0.922. The perceived legitimacy of gender discrimination was again quite low, and did not reliably differ between the Non-Sexist (M 1.25, SD 0.53), Rare Sexism (M 1.05, SD 0.22), and Pervasive Sexism conditions (M 1.21, SD 0.58), F(2, 56) 1.18, p 0.316. Thus, in this data set, the negative psychological consequences of pervasive discrimination do not appear to be due to discrimination being seen as differentially fair or legitimate.

GENERAL DISCUSSION In two experiments, we found that the pervasiveness of discrimination moderates the relation between encounters with discrimination and its psychological costs. In Study 1, we found that women who were told that sexism is pervasive exhibited lower self-esteem than women who were told that sexism
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was rare and isolated. In Study 2, we found that women attributing a negative evaluation to pervasive sexism exhibited lower group-based self-esteem and less positive affect compared to women who attributed their negative evaluation to rare sexism. Furthermore, compared to when the negative evaluation was attributable to a non-sexist external cause, only pervasive sexism, but not rare sexism, led to signicantly lower self-esteem and more negative affect. Consistent with the current ndings, a number of previous studies have found that the more women and members of other disadvantaged groups perceive discrimination, the worse their psychological well-being (e.g. Branscombe et al., 1999; Klonoff et al., 2000). One limitation of that work was that it was correlational and thus open to alternative explanations. However, because the current studies are experimental in nature, they provide evidence that encountering discrimination in social contexts in which it is pervasive can indeed cause psychological harm compared to encountering it when discrimination is rare. Thus, these results cannot be explained in terms of individual differences in rejection-sensitivity, psychological maladjustment, actual experiences with discrimination, or biased perceptions. Likewise, the present ndings cannot be explained in terms of the severity of the outcomes experienced, because participants experienced similar outcomes across conditions. Although the severity of discriminatory events is likely to affect targets responses, the pervasiveness of discrimination may be even more important. While more severe forms of discrimination are likely to incur greater psychological costs than more mild forms, the extent of these costs will be limited when discrimination is seen as an isolated occurrence. However, pervasive discrimination implies future rejection and negative treatment across contexts. Even relatively subtle or inconsequential discriminatory events can have severe consequences in terms of their cumulative effects and in terms of the extent to which they disadvantage one group relative to another. Several studies have found that attributions to discrimination are more harmful for women than they are for men (Branscombe, 1998; Schmitt & Branscombe, 2002a; Schmitt et al., 2002). The present ndings may help explain why attributions to discrimination incur different costs for women and men. Because women are disadvantaged in society relative to men, their attributions to discrimination are more likely to represent pervasive disadvantage than are attributions to discrimination among men. Because our ndings demonstrate that attributions to pervasive discrimination are more harmful than attributions to isolated discrimination, they support the hypothesis that differential pervasiveness is responsible for the differential costs of attributions to discrimination for women and men. Researchers have suggested that attributions to discrimination might have psychological consequences similar to external attributions that locate the cause of a negative event in some aspect of the immediate situation (e.g. Crocker & Major, 1989). As noted by Major et al. (2002), the psychological consequences of attributions to discrimination are likely to depend on a number of factors, and the task for social psychologists is to search for factors that moderate those consequences. The present research suggests that the extent to which attributions to discrimination are similar to external attributions depends on whether the discrimination occurs in the context of pervasive discrimination or as an isolated incident. Attributions to isolated discrimination should have psychological consequences similar to an external attribution because they locate responsibility for the outcome within a prejudiced individual who is rather unique in his or her motivation and ability to discriminate. However, when ones group membership is the target of pervasive discrimination, attributions to discrimination should be more costly because they locate the cause of discrimination within a broader social context in which ones social identity is consistently devalued and disadvantaged. Consistent with this perspective, in Study 2 we found that attributions to rare discrimination had consequences quite similar to that of an external attribution (i.e. when the negative feedback was attributable to someone who was negative toward everyone). However, attributions to pervasive sexism caused psychological harm compared to an external attribution. Therefore, results suggest that attributions to discrimination have emotional
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consequences most similar to those of external attributions when discrimination is perceived to be rare. However, as discrimination is perceived as more pervasive, attributions to discrimination will have increasingly harmful psychological consequences. While this research does not directly test Crocker and Majors (1989) hypothesis that attributions to discrimination might be self-protective relative to attributions to internal, stable aspects of the individual self (e.g. ability), it does suggest that as perceptions of discrimination become more pervasive, they are less likely to offer self-protection and are more likely to cause harm.

LIMITATIONS AND FUTURE DIRECTIONS This research represents the rst attempt to experimentally examine the emotional consequences of being the target of pervasive discrimination. However, it is not without its limitations. First, the effects we observed were small to moderate, and thus the strength and robustness of the effects we observed are open empirical questions. In addition, future research could benet from the addition of other measures of psychological well-being, such as self-efcacy or anxiety, and by differentiating between affective consequences that are other-directed (e.g. anger) and those that are self-directed (e.g. depression; Major et al., 2002). We should also be cautious in generalizing these results to other types of social groups until more research is done with different group memberships. Finally, because the psychological consequences of attributions can only be judged in comparison to other types of attributions, experimental comparisons of attributions to pervasive discrimination with other types of attributions (such as personal deservingness) would represent an important contribution to the literature. Although the studies we conducted focused on negative emotional consequences, pervasive discrimination is likely to have other psychological and social consequences. For instance, perceiving pervasive gender discrimination predicts a sense of collective identication with women, which can attenuate some of the negative psychological consequences of perceiving discrimination (Schmitt et al., 2002). Thus, while perceptions of pervasive discrimination have costs, they do not inevitably lead to psychological maladjustment and low self-esteem because such perceptions can also encourage collective self-protective strategies such as social creativity (e.g. revaluing the attributes of the ingroup) and collective resistance to the ingroups disadvantage (Tajfel, 1978). This has important implications for gender group relations because, while the perception of pervasive discrimination against ones ingroup can harm psychological well-being, it has also been found to predict womens collective action aimed at social change (Foster, 2000; Foster, 2001; Kelly & Breinlinger, 1996). In that sense, perceiving pervasive discrimination may be harmful in terms of individual psychological well-being, but essential for the kind of social change that can reduce intergroup inequality (Schmitt, Ellemers, & Branscombe, in press). Finally, future research and theorizing should consider the meaning of pervasiveness itself. Discrimination is pervasive when most members of the dominant group are motivated and able to discriminate across a number of social contexts. From a social identity perspective, dominant group members are more likely to uniformly discriminate against the outgroup when their dominant social position is threatened in contexts that are relevant to their group identity (Schmitt et al., in press). Thus, perceptions of pervasive discrimination are closely linked to the number of contexts in which a group membership is seen as relevant to ones outcomes. Perceptions of pervasiveness also may be closely tied to explanations for why discrimination occurs. If discrimination is thought to result from isolated prejudiced personalities, discrimination will be seen as relatively rare. However, if discrimination is thought to result from dominant groups acting to protect their social position, then
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discrimination will be seen as more pervasive. Discrimination might also be explained as resulting from stereotypes that all members of society learn equally. In this case both privileged and disadvantaged groups can be expected to discriminate, and discrimination against the disadvantaged will be seen as especially pervasive. In addition, discrimination might be thought to result from structural or institutional discrimination, which maintains intergroup inequality without requiring individuals to be prejudiced or to intend to discriminate. In short, the pervasiveness of discrimination is a rich concept, related in a number of ways to how people perceive and interpret their place in the social world.

CONCLUSIONS Discrimination is an intergroup phenomenon that can have implications for targets of discrimination that extend far beyond the immediate experience of interacting with a single discriminating other. Consistent with this point of view, we found that gender discrimination had different consequences for women depending on whether discrimination was rare or pervasive. Encountering pervasive sexism has negative psychological consequences for women, and it also exacerbates the negative psychological consequences of attributing a single event to discrimination. We suggest that the targets perspective of prejudice cannot be fully understood without considering the pervasive nature of discrimination that members of disadvantaged groups endure.

ACKNOWLEDGMENTS We thank Heather Caughey, Bill Madl, Michael Moore, and Nicole Oehler for their assistance in collecting the data, Faye Crosby and two anonymous reviewers for their helpful comments, and Ken Dion for his editorial guidance.

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