During the study, Rodolfo Mendoza-Denton at the University of California, Berkeley, gave a written test to 170 female undergraduates.
Prior to the test, the students were assigned to one of three empty offices, which they were told belonged to their male examiner.
The offices were furnished in one of three ways to allow the students to infer the examiner's view of women- having a "progressive" decor such as a breast-cancer awareness banner, overtly sexist posters of women, or neutral objects such as a stack of papers.
After the test, it was found that students, who were sensitive to sexism, as measured by a separate questionnaire, did not score well in the supposedly neutral office.
However, there wasn't any effect on the students' performance, when they had to go into the chauvinist office. In fact, they scored better than less-sensitive peers
"Ironically, if you 'know thy enemy', you've got a better chance of dealing with it than if you are constantly wondering if you will be judged unfairly," New Scientist magazine quoted Mendoza-Denton as saying.
Earlier studies have shown that black people prefer dealing with overtly racist whites rather than those behaving ambiguously.
The researchers say that this is because overt racism and sexism are considered socially unacceptable, and prejudice has become subtler.