Author Information

Meghan Sullivan
Zeely Sylvia


While women have achieved great advancements in social status in the past century, sexism remains a widespread issue. Perceptions of sexism today could be affected by comparisons to the past, when sexism was much worse. The current study investigated the effect of using different temporal reference points to make judgments about the state of gender equality today. Based on temporal comparison theory, a process of making judgments of the present based on an individual’s view of the past, it was expected that those considering the past would see gender inequality as less of an issue currently than those considering the present. Participants included 29 males and 66 females recruited online through Facebook and primed into a past or a present mindset by reading an incidence of sexism framed in either 1963 or 2008. The conditions were compared on a variety of measures to detect any differences in their perceptions of modern gender equality. Participants in the present condition perceived significantly more progress needed to achieve gender equality and perceived society as favoring men significantly more than those in the past condition. Understanding how temporal comparisons can affect ongoing efforts to promote women’s progress can inform efforts toward social change.

Note on the Author

Meghan Sullivan is a graduating senior with a major in Psychology and minor in Mathematics, and Zeely Sylvia is a recent graduate with a major in Psychology. This research was conducted under the direction of Dr. Laura Ramsey, which originated in her Psychology Research Methods class and developed into an ongoing project. Meghan and Zeely presented this study at the BSU Undergraduate Research Symposium and at the Association for Psychological Science Convention in Washington, D.C in May, 2013.

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