Social Expectancies and Cognitive Dissonance: Perceiving and Responding to Gender
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Few studies have explored how perceivers respond cognitively and affectively during interpersonal encounters with targets who disconfirm their social expectancies. This study specifically explored how people respond affectively and cognitively during interpersonal encounters with people who may not match their category-based expectations about gender appearance. Using a randomized experimental design, participants (N = 180) viewed one of four video lectures in which a male and female presenter varied by normative and nonnormative gender appearance. Participants were assessed on 1) whether or not the presenter violated their expectations about gender; 2) their degree of comfort and discomfort with the presenter; 3) the amount of information they retained from the presentation; 4) and their evaluation of the presenter. Participants’ personality characteristics, preference for consistency, and tolerance for ambiguity were also measured. Participants who experienced discomfort, had a preference for others to be consistent, or held beliefs about discrete social categories provided significantly lower evaluations of the presenter. In addition, participants reported significantly more discomfort with the nonormative male presenter. Implications include discussing expectancy violations in multicultural education and teacher preparation programs to understand how people may react to others who deviate from their own cultural or social norms.