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Chivalry and the Moderating Effect of Ambivalent Sexism: Individual Differences in Crime Seriousness Judgments


  • Authors are listed alphabetically and contributed equally to the writing of this article. The authors wish to thank Tally Katz-Gerro, Meir Yaish, and Amalia Sa'ar for their helpful comments on previous versions of this article.

concerning this article may be addressed to either author: Sergio Herzog, Institute of Criminology, Faculty of Law, the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, Jerusalem 91905, Israel; e-mail:, or Shaul Oreg, Department of Sociology and Anthropology, University of Haifa, Mt. Carmel, Haifa 31905, Israel; e-mail:


Previous studies have shown that female offenders frequently receive more lenient judgments than equivalent males. Chivalry theories argue that such leniency is the result of paternalistic, benevolent attitudes toward women, in particular toward those who fulfill stereotypical female roles. Yet to date, studies have not examined whether such leniency is indeed associated with paternalistic societal attitudes toward women. The present study goes beyond the investigation of demographics and employs Glick and Fiske's (1996) concepts of hostile and benevolent sexism. We use these concepts to highlight the role of individual differences in attitudes toward women as a key to our understanding of lenient attitudes toward female offenders. Eight hundred forty respondents from a national sample of Israeli residents evaluated the seriousness of hypothetical crime scenarios with (traditional and nontraditional) female and male offenders. As hypothesized, hostile and benevolent sexism moderate the effect of women's “traditionality” on respondents' crime seriousness judgments and on the severity of sentences assigned.