Subconscious Enforcement

I’ve been busy doing Salon Futura stuff today and haven’t had much time to blog, but here are a couple of interesting links that show how people subconsciously enforce social norms.

First up is a study by researchers at Yale that show that LGB teenagers are much more likely to be punished for their behavior than straight kids who indulge in similar activities. As far as I can see, the study did not try to measure whether the teachers, parents and police involved were consciously homophobic, but I’m guessing that many would deny it if asked.

A very similar phenomenon is at work in this study of people who work in jobs not seen as traditional for their gender. The researchers, again from Yale, found that women holding high status jobs (a police chief, a CEO of an engineering firm, a judge) were much more likely to be heavily criticized for mistakes than a man in a similar job making similar mistakes. It is possible that a similar effect applies to men holding jobs traditionally reserved for women, but that’s harder to measure given how few such high status women’s jobs exist. Again I think it is likely that if you asked the people complaining about the mistakes if they were sexist they would mostly say no, but they act as if they are.