Date of Award

Fall 2023


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Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Science (MS) in Psychology: General/Experimental




In America, a large population of people believe that sexism does not exist, while sexism researchers would disagree with this sentiment. One possible explanation for this discrepancy is the Dunning-Kruger effect. The Dunning-Kruger effect states that individuals may experience insufficient knowledge about a subject to recognize and acknowledge their own deficits in that domain. Thus, individuals who lack an understanding of sexism may be unable to recognize it in themselves and others. The current study extended prior research (West & Eaton, 2019) to examine whether the Dunning-Kruger effect applies to sexism in this manner. In doing so, this study examined four different types of sexism: old-fashioned, modern, benevolent, and hostile. It was hypothesized that participants who were among the most sexist people would be the same individuals who underestimated their levels of sexism the most. Additionally, to investigate the role of knowledge, it was predicted that knowledge regarding what constitutes sexism would mediate the effect of objective sexism on the miscalibration of self-assessments of sexism. Therefore, participants who had the lowest level of knowledge were expected to be among the most sexist individuals. This study also explored the new proposed analyses of Gignac and Zajenkowski (2020), who pointed out the limitations of the traditional analyses used to test the Dunning-Kruger effect. A sample of 221 participants completed four traditional measures of sexism. They also completed a self-assessment of their perceived level of sexism and a measure of sexism knowledge, for which they asked to assess beliefs as either sexist or not. The results generally supported the hypothesis that the most sexist individuals also underestimated their level of sexism. Moreover, the most sexist individuals did, indeed, have the least amount of knowledge regarding sexism. However, knowledge regarding sexism did not mediate the effect of objective sexism level on miscalibration of self-perceptions of sexism. Only partial support for the Dunning-Kruger effect was found using the newer proposed analyses. Further investigations are warranted to explore the potential role of ignorance or other potential mediating variables in explaining why more sexist people may underestimate their sexism the most.