Graduation Year


Document Type




Degree Name

Master of Arts (M.A.)

Degree Granting Department


Major Professor

Kristen Salomon, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Jennifer Bosson, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Elizabeth Schotter, Ph.D.


Gender Stereotype, Microaggression, Motivation, Reactivity, Recovery


The ambiguity inherent to humorous communication may make women minimize experiences of sexist jokes, which may have downstream emotional and motivational consequences. The present thesis study tested whether the manner in which sexism is communicated, as a statement or joke, would reflect the motivational intensity model in cardiovascular responses during a performance-based task. Additionally, the present studies tested whether blatant and humorous sexism differentially affects emotional responses, evaluations of a male speaker, reporting of sexist misconduct, and ingroup identification. Using an online chat paradigm, participants were randomly assigned to receive one of three messages: a sexist joke, blatantly sexist statement, or non-sexist statement, ostensibly sent by a fellow male participant named Mike. Self-reported anger toward Mike did not differ between sexism conditions; if participants experienced more anger, they had increased HR reactivity, as evidenced by a significant indirect effect for mediation. In Study 1, participants had more positive evaluations of Mike in the sexist joke condition compared to the sexist statement condition, whereas evaluations did not differ between sexism conditions in Study 2. In Study 2, participants in the sexist joke condition reported Mike’s inappropriate behavior significantly less frequently than those in the sexist statement condition. In sum, sexist humor and blatant sexism elicit the same cardiovascular responses indicative of increased motivational intensity. Humor in sexist communication prevents women from reporting misconduct of the sexist male speakers and may cause distancing from one’s stigmatized ingroup. Additionally, women’s evaluations of men are not necessarily influenced by their attributions of sexism toward him. Implications are discussed.