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EASP – European Association of Social Psychology

Travel Grant Report by Catherine Verniers

22.06.2016, by Sibylle Classen in grant report

Université Blaise Pascal, France; Visit to the ICS at University of Lisbon, Portugal

The EASP Travel grant allowed me to spend four months as a postdoctoral researcher at the Institute of Social Sciences —ICS, at University of Lisbon. The purpose of this visit was to develop a new line of research with Pr. Jorge Vala, integrating my interest for the study of the legitimising processes underlying the persistence of gender inequalities, and the work of the host researchers on perceived threat in the justification of discrimination.

The project aimed at studying the use of perceived threat as a psychosocial tool to justify the gender gap in professional careers. We relied on the justified discrimination model (Pereira, Vala, & Leyens, 2009), which describes an underlying mechanism of the legitimation of the discrimination faced by ethnic and cultural minorities. This model assumes that perceived threat mediates the relationship between prejudice and discrimination in contexts where egalitarian values are prominent. Accordingly, the authors found evidence that the perception that immigrants’ entry in the European Union is likely to undermine core European values mediated the relationship between racial prejudice and opposition to naturalization (Pereira, Vala, & Costa-Lopes, 2010). My aim was to apply this model to the legitimation of gender discrimination in the workplace. Evidence suggests that gender equality in the workplace, including equal pay between women and men, is likely to represent a threat to traditional gender roles, especially regarding domestic and child-rearing duties (Tharenou, 2013). In line with the justified discrimination model therefore, it was hypothesized that threat to gender roles mediates the relationship between sexist prejudice and discrimination towards women in the workplace.

As an exploratory research I tested this hypothesis using the ISSP data (ISSP Research Group, 2016). This international collaborative working allows the study of various societal processes by combining cross-national and cross time data. Data analysis for this first study provides very promising findings, indicating that, in line with our assumption, the belief that working women pose a threat to gender role distribution at home mediates the relationship between sexism and opposition to women’s career. We are currently working on a paper, which we expect to submit soon for publication. Furthermore, this very promising finding allows considering further experimental studies and continuing fruitful collaboration in the future.

To conclude my report, I would like to thank the European Association of Social Psychology for awarding me this grant that enabled me to initiate this new collaboration, and Sibylle Classen for her kind assistance in the application process.

I would also like to thank Jorge Vala with whom I enjoyed positive cooperation, Rui Costa-Lopes and his loving family for their warm welcome, and Alice Ramos, Ana Louceiro and Luis Almeida for their practical assistance.

ISSP Research Group. (2016). International Social Survey Programme: Family and Changing Gender Roles IV - ISSP 2012. GESIS Data Archive.
Pereira, C., Vala, J., & Costa-Lopes, R. (2010). From prejudice to discrimination: The legitimizing role of perceived threat in discrimination against immigrants. European Journal of Social Psychology, 40(7), 1231-1250.
Pereira, C., Vala, J., & Leyens, J. P. (2009). From infra-humanization to discrimination: The mediation of symbolic threat needs egalitarian norms. Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, 45(2), 336‑344.
Tharenou, P. (2013). The work of feminists is not yet done: The gender pay gap—A stubborn anachronism. Sex Roles, 68(3-4), 198-206.