Sex Roles, Vol. 52, Nos. 7/8, April 2005 (
Variation in the Application of the “Promiscuous Female”
Stereotype and the Nature of the Application Domain:
Inﬂuences on Sexual Harassment Judgments after
Exposure to the Jerry Springer Show
and C. Vincent Spicer
This study was designed to explore how the impact of exposure to a few stereotyped group
members can be mediated by individual variation in stereotype application to other group
members. When compared to participants exposed to nonpromiscuous women on an episode
of the Jerry Springer Show, those exposed to promiscuous women perceived a victim of sex-
ual harassment as less traumatized and more responsible for the event. In addition, expo-
sure condition had no impact on judgments when the man physically touched the victim.
Conversely, when he made a verbal comment or verbal request, those in the promiscuous
condition reported perceptions of less victim trauma and made greater attributions of vic-
tim responsibility. The ﬁndings also indicate that the effects of exposure to the promiscuous
woman depictions were mediated by individual variation in attributions of victim promiscuity.
Finally, activation of the promiscuous female stereotype was also shown to have generalized
to judgments of women in a nonsexual domain.
KEY WORDS: female stereotype; stereotype mediation; media images.
Social scientists have devoted an extensive
amount of attention to the theoretical and practical
consequences of exposure to various types of stereo-
typical trait information. Mere exposure to a sym-
bol or representative of a social category can be
sufﬁcient to activate stereotypic associations, often
without awareness or attention (Bargh, 1988). Cur-
rent theorists, however, emphasize a distinction be-
tween stereotype activation and stereotype applica-
tion. Activation refers to the enhanced accessibility
of stereotype-associated information, whereas appli-
cation refers to the use of this stereotypical informa-
University of North Carolina—Wilmington, Wilmington, North
Albany State University, Albany, New York.
College of Charleston, Charleston, South Carolina.
To whom corresponding should be address at Department
of Psychology, University of North Carolina—Wilmington,
Wilmington, North Carolina 28403; e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org.
tion in making dispositional inferences. In this study
we assessed whether media-based stereotype activa-
tion (through exposure to a few media-based promis-
cuous women) of the promiscuous female stereotype
may lead to the application (i.e., the use of stereotyp-
ical traits in making dispositional attributions) of the
stereotype to other women.
Although activation of the stereotype tends
to occur automatically by exposure to stereotype-
associated stimuli (Bargh, Chen, & Burrows, 1996;
Devine, 1989; Lepore & Brown, 1997), there is strong
evidence that there tends to be variation in stereo-
type application. For example, Ryan, Judd, and Park
(1996) demonstrated that individual variation in
group stereotypicality perceptions (i.e., the extent
of the belief that a stereotyped group possesses
stereotypical traits) is directly related to stereotype
application to individual stereotyped group mem-
bers. In addition, there is evidence that stereotype
2005 Springer Science+Business Media, Inc.