Flirting with threat: Social identity and the perils of the female communality prescription

Two experiments examined the possibility that women might engage in instrumental flirtation non-sexual flirtation-consistent behaviors under stereotype threat in the pursuit of gender consistent communal/likability goals. Experiment 1 involved undergraduate women (N = 28) who were videotaped during an interview with a male confederate who was blind to the experimental condition. Participants were either told the interview was measuring quantitative reasoning (stereotype threat) or psychological processes and was gender unbiased (control). The interviews were then coded for the frequency of verbal, nonverbal facial, and nonverbal bodily flirtation behaviors. Findings indicated that participants in the stereotype threat condition showed a higher frequency of nonverbal facial and nonverbal bodily flirtation behaviors than participants in the control condition. Experiment 2 was conducted using eight videotaped interviewees from Experiment 1. Undergraduates (N = 58; 29 men, 29 women) viewed muted two-minute clips from the eight interviewees videotapes and asked to rate the interviewee on sexual intent and anxiety. Men perceived interviewees operating under stereotype threat as displaying a higher level of sexual intent. These results show that women operating under stereotype threat can inadvertently send signals of sexual interest.

Ben-Zeev, A., Dennehy, T.C., Sackman, R., Olide, A., & Berger, C.C. (2011). Flirting with threat: Social identity and the perils of the female communality prescription. Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, 47, 1308-1311.