Physical Abuse between Genders: A Social Experiment

For my high school psychology class final project, a friend and I conducted a social experiment to study societal views of physical abuse between males and females. My proposal to my teacher read something like this: “Growing up, boys often hear authority figures tell them never to hit a girl. Why don’t you ever hear it the other way around?” This question infuriated my sisters. They thought it condoned/ignored domestic violence and other gendered abuse that females are victims of. I want to stress this: the study was meant to be an examination of the absence of equality. Is this perceived difference real? If so, how does it manifest itself?

Experiment: They (my two friends, one a guy, one a girl) approach two people exiting the mall together. They pretend to be a couple asking for directions, one gets angry at the other one for asking for directions, claiming they know where to go, then slaps the other one and leads the victim away by the wrist. I approach with a survey, informing the people what they saw was staged, and ask them to fill out the survey (which asks them to rate the perceived painfulness of the slap, among other questions). Short summary of the results: almost uniformly when the girl slapped the guy, the witnesses experienced a moment of shock then laughter. When the guy slapped the girl, jaws dropped, some refused to talk to me, one lady almost chased the guy into the parking lot. People perceived more pain was felt by the girl (we tried our best to give equally forceful slaps). Biggest potential flaw: the sample size was small, about 20-30 people. After the study the biggest question on my mind was this: what are the societal implications of these results?  Thoughts on this?

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