Early-Life Circumstances and their Effect over the Life Course

Population Research and Policy Review

A growing body of research has highlighted that men’s gender-related behaviors and choices are strongly influenced by the gendered beliefs they believe other men hold. However, limited research has sought to identify how men come to form opinions about what other men believe. Drawing from research on pluralistic ignorance, status, and masculinity, this study examines the role that high and low status men’s sexist behaviors have on the discrepancy between men’s own sexist beliefs and those they believe are held by most other men. Results from a series of online experiments show that men believe that “most men” are more sexist than themselves. Moreover, while the sexist acts of a low status man decrease men’s personal endorsement of sexist beliefs, the same acts by a high status man increased men’s personal endorsement of sexist beliefs. While personal beliefs were malleable, neither high nor low status men’s behaviors affected men’s perception of how sexist other men are. Together, these findings provide insight into the ways in which pluralistic ignorance and the sexist actions of high status men may contribute to systems of gender inequality.