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Experimental study found: Lesbian judged more competent than a heterosexual woman

A new experimental study found that "there are conditions under which lesbians - a group often stereotyped negatively - are less susceptible to invoking negative female stereotypes than heterosexual women are."

Dr. Claudia Niedlich (University Koblenz-Landau) and colleagues report: "The traditional typical woman has been described as ´nice, but incompetent´. However, there are female sub-stereotypes, such as career women and lesbians, that diverge considerably from the typical woman, being regarded as higher in typically masculine, agentic characteristics such as task competence. We hypothesized that if a woman displays ambiguous behavior with the regard to the information about her gender-role, it is more readily interpreted as that of a stereotypical woman  if performed by a heterosexual woman than by a lesbian, and subsequently may provoke lower competence judgments for the heterosexual woman as compared to the lesbian.
308 study-participants had to read a hypothetical job interview in which we manipulated the target´s sexual orientation. Findings demonstrated that a lesbian was judged more competent than a heterosexual woman in the presence of ambiguous gender-stereotypical behavior. This difference in competence judgments was not found in the absence of ambiguous gender-stereotypical behavior. Judging the heterosexual woman low in masculinity was related to her lower competence judgment."

Abstracts of the 56th Conference of Experimental Psychologists
Schütz, Alexander C.; Drewing, Knut; Gegenfurtner, Karl R. (Eds.)