Study at Montana State University Finds That Interventions Can Help Women Overcome Modesty

Jessi L Smith; MSU photo by Kelly GorhamA study led by Jessi L. Smith,  associate professor of psychology at Montana State University, found that many women are uncomfortable talking about their own accomplishments but are more than willing to herald the accomplishments of other women. Men, on the other hand, have been found to have no such modesty in talking about their own accomplishments.

Professor Smith also found that intervention techniques can be used to make women more comfortable talking about their own accomplishments and positive traits. Dr. Smith and a colleague conducted an experiment where woman were assembled in a room and asked to write an essay about themselves. In the room was a mysterious 3-foot-by-3-foot black box. One group was told the black box was a “subliminal noise generator” that produced ultra high frequency sound waves that couldn’t be heard but might cause them discomfort. The other group was not given an explanation about the black box. For the group that was told there was a subliminal noise generator and therefore had an explanation for any anxiety they felt, their essays were judged superior by a group of independent judges than the essays written by women who were not given an explanation for the black box in the room.

“The key here,” says Professor Smith, “is that when women had an alternative explanation for why they might be feeling uncomfortable, the awkwardness they felt from violating the modesty norm by writing about themselves was diverted and they did just fine. This sheds light on how we look at self-nomination for awards, cover letters for job applications, and even requests for pay raises.”

Dr. Smith is a graduate of the University of Colorado in Colorado Springs. She earned a master’s degree and a Ph.D. in psychology at the University if Utah.

The article, “Women’s Bragging Rights: Overcoming Modesty Norms to Facilitate Women’s Self Promotion,” was co-written by Meghan Huntoon, a doctoral student at Northern Illinois University. It was published on the website of the journal Psychology of Women Quarterly. It may be accessed here.

Filed Under: Research/Study


RSSComments (0)

Leave a Reply