Washington: Ladies, want to know if a man is sexist or not? Just watch how he smiles and chats with you!
A first-of-its-kind study by researchers at the Northeastern University in the US sheds light on how sexism subtly influences social interaction between men and woman.
Men who demonstrate "well-intentioned" sexism see women as warm and pure yet helpless, incompetent and in need of men's protection, researchers said.
Researchers Jin Goh and Judith Hall investigated how men's word choice, attitudes and smiles show the type of sexism they sometimes subtly show when interacting with women they have just met.
Experts believe that gender discrimination can be both hostile and benevolent.
Hostile sexism is an antipathy or dislike of women, and often comes to the fore as dominant and derogatory behaviour in an effort to maintain power.
Benevolent sexism is less negative on the surface and more paternalistic, reflecting a chivalrous and subjectively positive view of women.
The study captured both nonverbal and verbal expressions of benevolent and hostile sexism during mixed-gender interaction, and how these two types of sexist beliefs are expressed differently.
The researchers carefully examined the social interaction of 27 pairs of American undergraduate men and women. They were filmed while they played a trivia game together and then chatted afterwards.
Observers then scrutinised their interaction by reporting their impressions and counting certain nonverbal cues such as smiles. Word count software was also used to further analyse the content.
The more hostile sexist men were perceived as less approachable and less friendly in their speech. Men with more hostile sexism also smiled less during the interaction.
In turn, those who displayed benevolent sexism were rated to be more approachable, warmer, friendlier and more likely to smile.
They also used more positive emotional words and were overall more patient while waiting for a woman to answer trivia questions.
"While many people are sensitive to sexist verbal offences, they may not readily associate sexism with warmth and friendliness," said Goh.
The study was published in Springer's journal Sex Roles.