The Chivalrous Bystander: The Role of Gender-Based Beliefs and Empathy on Bystander Behavior and Perceived Barriers to Intervention

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Department or Administrative Unit

Nutrition Exercise and Health Sciences

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Despite substantial evidence demonstrating a relation between gender-based beliefs and violence against women, there has been little research examining whether sexist attitudes are related to prosocial bystander behavior. Understanding psychosocial influences on bystanders’ behavior could inform bystander training programs on college campuses, and so the current study examined the unique and joint effects of three gender-based attitudes (rape myth acceptance, hostile sexism, and benevolent sexism) and empathy in predicting bystander behavior and perceived barriers to intervention in situations that undergraduates (N = 500; 70% female; Mage = 18.86 years) had experienced in the prior year. Benevolent sexism was the only gender-based attitude consistently associated with bystander behavior and perceived barriers. After accounting for participant empathy, benevolent sexism uniquely predicted less intervention in post-assault situations, greater perceived barriers in pre- and post-assault situations, and greater Failure to Perceive Responsibility and Skill Deficit barriers across situations. Associations between gender-based attitudes and bystander behavior also differed for men and women, with rape myth acceptance predicting greater Failure to Perceive Responsibility barriers and benevolent sexism predicting greater Skill Deficit barriers for women but not men. These results suggest that existing bystander education programs can be improved by explicitly addressing benevolent sexist beliefs and promoting empathy for victims of assault.


This article was originally published in Journal of Interpersonal Violence. The full-text article from the publisher can be found here.

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Journal of Interpersonal Violence


© The Author(s) 2020