Appearance comments presented as compliments at work: How are they perceived by targets and observers in and outside of workplace settings?

Rotem Kahalon, Julia C. Becker, Nurit Shnabel

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

Two studies examined perceptions referring to appearance comments presented as compliments. When taking the target's perspective (Study 1, n = 678), women perceived appearance comments, especially if sexualized (vs. non-sexualized) as less appropriate than men did. Women also believed that, as the targets of sexualized (vs. non-sexualized) comments, they were likely to be perceived as less warm (whereas men believed that they were likely to be perceived as more competent). When taking an observer perspective (Study 2, n = 398), participants perceived comments made at the workplace (vs. a non-work setting) as less appropriate. Women, but not men, also perceived sexualized comments as less appropriate than non-sexualized comments. Finally, both men and women perceived the target of sexualized (vs. non-sexualized) comments as less warm and competent. The results point to a gap between women's and men's perceptions of the appropriateness of appearance comments in general, and sexualized comments in particular, in both workplace and non-work settings. Moreover, women are more aware than men of the “penalty,” in terms of social perceptions, imposed upon the targets of appearance comments. These results, which can inform sensitivity training to prevent sexual harassment, are especially important in workplace settings, where perceptions of warmth and competence affect how individuals are treated and promoted.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)751-762
Number of pages12
JournalJournal of Applied Social Psychology
Volume52
Issue number8
DOIs
StatePublished - Aug 2022

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