Intentionally Favored, Unintentionally Harmed? Impact of Sex-Based Preferential Selection on Self-Perceptions and Self-Evaluations

Madeline E. Heilman, Michael C. Simon, David P. Repper

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


In this laboratory study we compared the effect of sex-based preferential selection with that of merit-based selection on the reactions of 64 male and 76 female undergraduates serving as task leaders. Subjects succeeded or failed on the task while working with another individual (a confederate). As predicted, only women's self-perceptions and self-evaluations were negatively affected by the sex-based preferential selection method relative to the merit-based method. When selected on the basis of sex, women devalued their leadership performance, took less credit for successful outcomes, and reported less interest in persisting as leader; they also characterized themselves as more deficient in general leadership skills. These findings suggest that when individuals have doubts about their competence to perform a job effectively, nonwork-related preferential selection is likely to have adverse consequences on how they view themselves and their performance. Implications of the findings for the implementation of affirmative action programs are discussed.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)62-68
Number of pages7
JournalJournal of Applied Psychology
Issue number1
StatePublished - Feb 1987


ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Applied Psychology

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