Gender/Sexuality Social Psychology

Ep 179: Lipstick Effect, Stereotype Threat and other Gender Matters

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Do women who work in typically male dominated jobs “play down” their femininity in order to be gain more respect from their male co-workers?

In this episode we’ll explore stereotype threat (also known as stereotype vulnerability) as well as something you may not have heard of: the lipstick effect. How do men and women change their appearance or their behavior during times of economic depression? In this all-gender episode we look at these issues as well as why the new Volkswagen Beetle has changed its appearance. Yes, the 2012 Volkswagen Beetle has become more masculine, but why?

    • In the clip from TWIT you heard Becky Worley and Jolie O’Dell commenting on the concept of stereotype threat.
    • It’s Not Me, It’s You – an excellent article by Annie Murphy Paul in which she talks about the stereotype threat as it applies to girls and math.

The fear of proving a negative stereotype true actually causes someone to underperform “… and this can account for girls’ underperformance in math and science. Why Stereotype Threat Keeps Girls Out of Math and Science, and What to Do About It

If girls consistently believe they are scoring poorly in math and science because they are biologically not cut out for it, they are less likely to pursue those fields of study at any level. The same goes for Black and Latino children as well. And that’s why its important to change the way we talk about test taking and performance. – Why Stereotype Threat Keeps Girls Out of Math and Science, and What to Do About It

“One way to counteract [stereotype threat] is to introduce a growth mindset. For example, …. teachers and parents [should] emphasize the “expandability of knowledge“ by explaining that test-taking can build-brains, rather than framing the test as a way to see how smart students are. – Why Stereotype Threat Keeps Girls Out of Math and Science, and What to Do About It



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    Anne Cracraft

    August 13, 2012

    In your podcast, # 179 Lipstick Effect, you mentioned that L’Oreal showed an increase in revenue during the recent recession. I was wondering which division of the L’Oreal product line had increased in sales? When I think of L’Oreal, I think of hair coloring products and postulate that the increase in L’Oreal’s revenue is due to women saving money by coloring their hair at home($3.00 -$10.00) rather than paying $60 – $100 or more every few months in a salon. They were already coloring their hair before the recession but when money got tight they could no longer afford to have it professionally colored. Once you color your hair you must continue to color it or you get a line of demarcation that takes forever to grow out to your natural state.
    If the make up line revenues have increased you could apply the same reasoning that there is no money for the expensive brand of products that can only purchased in a department store so you buy the cheaper brand of product at Walmart. Once you start wearing makeup you must keep wearing it or you are constantly being asked if you are tired or if you feel well and, in some communities(in the South), if you are a single woman with no boyfriend and no makeup, then you may be presumed gay.
    I am proposing that L’Oreal’s revenue has increased as a matter of frugality rather than frivolity.

    I just discovered your podcast today and really enjoy what I have heard so far. You have made a long drive in the rain and snow more bearable.

    Thank you
    Anne Cracraft
    Knoxville, TN

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    August 13, 2012

    I can’t argue with you Bill. You make excellent points. Your comments address the research on gender and testing, but after releasing this episode I was thinking along the same lines as you about the lipstick effect. It’s not so much that I doubt that there indeed is a “lipstick effect” – I think there probably is – but I was wondering about the study I discussed in this episode. The study I mentioned asked students to read an article about how bad the economy is and then rate their likelihood to buy various products.

    The researchers found what they were looking for, but I was left wondering how the simple reading of a probably dull article on the bad state of the economy (perhaps only slightly more involving than simply checking one’s gender as you state) could possibly be a powerful enough experience to somehow, even unconsciously, to make women rate attraction-enhancing products more highly on a 7 point scale (and what was the effect size of this difference anyway?).

    I guess you have caught me not being critical enough. I just made a note to myself to discuss your comment and this matter on the next episode.

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    Bill F

    August 13, 2012

    You quoted a study reported by the Educational Testing Service in which students taking the AP Calculus test were asked to report their gender either at the beginning or at the end of the test.

    “Female students who received the gender inquiry before the test scored an average AP formula score of 12.5, while males scored an average of 16.5. In the groups that received the gender inquiry after the test, females scored an average of 15, while males scored an average of 14.”

    On the face of it, this seems preposterous. Has this been published? Has it been replicated?

    I assume the gender inquiry was something simple like a check box, male/female. They are suggesting that simply checking a box at the beginning of a test decreases a girl’s score by nearly 17%?

    At the beginning of any test students have to fill in their name, date, etc. In my experience this is done quickly and unconsciously, the main concern being the difficult exam to follow. How could such a small thing reduce a score by that much? Do they imagine that the girls had forgotten their gender? Do they think that checking the box caused them to stop and reflect on their gender’s relative math ability?

    And then there are the boys. They had also apparently forgotten their gender and, those not reminded by a gender inquiry, scored an astounding 18.5% lower! What is the proposed mechanism for this? The ETS states that “…but boys benefitted by being reminded of their gender before the test.” Really? An 18% improvement on a final exam by simply checking a box that says “male.”

    I would give students of both genders more respect. They probably have a pretty good idea of their relative ability by the end of an advanced math course. I don’t think they are so susceptible to such insignificant issues. Good students in any field, and of both genders, have to overcome a lot of challenges and learn to deal with the inevitable anxiety about their performance.

    Don’t you have any skepticism about this study, and many of the others like it? I think they might belong on your previous podcast about publication bias and similar problems in social science research.

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