Graduation Year


Document Type




Degree Granting Department


Major Professor

Kristen Salomon


Ambivalent Sexism, Autonomic Response, Benevolent Sexism, Cardiovascular Psychophysiology, Gender Discrimination, Heart Rate


Hostile sexism is the antipathetic expression of sexism, in which men are antagonistic towards women who threaten their superiority. Benevolent sexism is the patriarchal expression of sexism, where men express protective, yet restrictive, attitudes towards women. Both forms of sexism originate from the view that women are inferior, frail, and only suited for nurturing or domestic responsibilities. Benevolent sexism may be more harmful to women because coping is thwarted by observers' underestimation of its effects (Bosson, Pinel, & Vandello, 2009). The present study aimed to examine women's responses to and recovery from hostile and benevolent sexism utilizing measures of cardiovascular reactivity and recovery. I predicted that women would exhibit greater reactivity to hostile sexism, but impaired recovery to benevolent sexism. Participants were 124 undergraduate women (50% Caucasian, age M = 18.92), with no history of cardiovascular health issues. Sexism condition - benevolent, hostile, or no sexism - was manipulated by exposing participants to comments made by a male experimenter. Cardiovascular responses were obtained during rest, task, and recovery periods. As predicted, women exhibited greater cardiovascular reactivity after exposure to hostile sexism, and women who experienced benevolent sexism showed impaired recovery, compared to the other two conditions. Findings illustrate that hostile sexism elicits immediate responses that resolve relatively quickly. However, benevolent sexism may be more pernicious in terms of psychological and physical health due to its prolonged effects.