ArticlePDF Available

Abstract and Figures

In the present research we investigated gender-specific beliefs about emotional behaviour. In Study 1, 180 respondents rated the extent to which they agreed with different types of beliefs (prescriptive, descriptive, stereotypical, and contra-stereotypical) regarding the emotional behaviour of men and women. As anticipated, respondents agreed more with descriptive than with prescriptive beliefs, and more with stereotypical than with contra-stereotypical beliefs. However, respondents agreed more with stereotypical beliefs about the emotional behaviour of women than with those about men. These results were replicated in Study 2 with a sample of 75 students and 80 nonstudents. In Study 3, a sample of 279 respondents rated the extent of agreement with the same items, this time with respect to then own emotional behaviour. A similar pattern of results was obtained, although agreement rates were higher than in Study 1 and 2.
Content may be subject to copyright.
Ability versus vulnerability:
Beliefs about men's and women's emotional behavior
Monique Timmers, Agneta H. Fischer and Antony S.R. Manstead
Conition and Emotion, in press
University of Amsterdam
Department of Social Psychology
Roetersstraat 15
1018 WB Amsterdam
The Netherlands.
Gender-specific beliefs
2
Abstract
In the present research we investigated gender-specific beliefs about emotional behavior. In Study 1 180
respondents rated the extent to which they agreed with different types of beliefs (prescriptive,
descriptive, stereotypical, and contra-stereotypical) regarding the emotional behavior of men and
women. As anticipated, respondents agreed more with descriptive than with prescriptive beliefs, and
more with stereotypical than with contra-stereotypical beliefs. However, respondents agreed more
with stereotypical beliefs about the emotional behavior of women than with those about men. These
results were replicated in Study 2 with a sample of 75 students and 80 non-students. In Study 3, a
sample of 279 respondents rated the extent of agreement with the same items, this time with respect to
their own emotional behavior. A similar pattern of results was obtained, although agreement rates were
higher than in Study 1 and 2.
Gender-specific beliefs
3
Evidence for gender-specific emotion norms
There is evidence that social norms
provide prescriptions for and regulate emotional experiences
and behavior (e.g., Baanders, 1997; Ekman & Friesen, 1969; Fischer & Jansz, 1995; Goffman, 1961;
Harré, 1996; Hochschild; 1983; Parkinson, 1991; Saarni, 1984). When an individual breaches these
social norms, there is a chance that he or she will be negatively evaluated during social interaction
(Forsyth, 1995). These emotion norms exist for the experience of emotions, i.e., feeling rules
(Hochschild, 1983; 'you should not feel happy when someone else has broken his leg'); however, they
are more pronounced for expressive behavior, i.e., display rules (Ekman & Friesen, 1969; 'you should
not burst into tears if a colleague spills coffee over your new blouse').
Regulation processes based on emotion n
orms are acknowledged to be a source for sex
differences in emotional behavior. The robust finding that sex differences in emotions are more
pronounced for emotional expressions than for emotional experiences (e.g., Brody & Hall, 1993; Kring
& Gordon, 1998; LaFrance & Banaji, 1992) is generally explained by the existence of gender-specific
emotion norms that apply differentially to men and women. There is broad consensus that these
different social norms are related to gender roles (e.g., Brody & Hall, 1993; Fischer, 1993; Shields,
1987).
In addition, recent research also suggests that gender-specific norms and beliefs may play a role
in sex differences in emotion recall or in the accessibility of emotion knowledge. This could account for
the finding that gender differences are especially large in retrospective self-reports about emotional
incidents (Feldman Barett, 1997; LaFrance & Banaji, 1992). Feldman Barrett (1997) has shown that
retrospective reports about emotional incidents were influenced in the direction of the beliefs
respondents had about their emotional lives. In one study for example Feldman Barrett and colleagues
showed that sex differences were found in retrospective, memory-based measures, but not in
Gender-specific beliefs
4
momentary ratings (Feldman Barrett, Robin, Pietromonaco, & Eyssel, 1998). One explanation for this
discrepancy was that "participants' own descriptions may have been influenced by their beliefs about
men's and women's emotionality more generally" (Feldman Barrett et al., 1998, p. 572).
In sum, a
lthough there seems to be a general consensus that sex differences in emotions could be
explained in terms of differences in gender-specific norms, no studies have directly addressed this issue.
Some studies have provided indirect evidence by focusing on the (expected) consequences of emotional
behavior, for example, by showing that men and women are aware of the social sanctions that can be
expected when deviating from gender-appropriate emotional behavior. For example, Graham, Gentry,
and Green (1981) found that the expression of positive emotion is more prescribed for women than for
men: Women expected more negative social sanctions when they failed to express positive emotions.
This is especially the case when these positive emotions are other-oriented: Stoppard and Gunn
Gruchy (1993) found that women expected negative consequences for themselves if they failed to
express positive emotions directed toward others. By contrast, men did not expect negative
consequences if they failed to express positive emotions; they only expected positive consequences
when they did express positive emotions, independent of whether these emotions were self- or other-
oriented. This latter study suggests that men and women hold different beliefs concerning the
appropriateness of their emotional response. However, it is not clear on which specific beliefs these
expected social sanctions are based.
Studies on the differences in social reactions to negative emotional behavior displayed by men
or by women also suggest gender-specific norms. For example, Crester, Lombardo, Lombardo, and
Mathis (1982) found that respondents were less accepting of crying by men than by women,
consistent with everyday knowledge that boys are confronted with more rigid norms concerning their
crying than girls. Cornelius (1982) also found that women's crying resulted in more positive
Gender-specific beliefs
5
consequences than the crying of men. However, Labott, Martin, Eason, and Berkey's (1991) study of
social reactions to crying showed that men who cried were liked more than women who cried. They
suggested that gender role expectations regarding crying may have changed in recent years, in the sense
that both men and women now find it more appropriate for men to weep. Whether respondents
actually believed this, was not measured, however.
Most direct evidence for the differential role emotion norms play in the emotion regulation of
men and women comes from a study by Grossman and Wood (1993). They showed that when explicit
instructions were given to both men and women to enhance or attenuate their emotions for reasons of
health, thereby manipulating expectations about emotional response, no sex differences in self-reported
intensity of emotional experience were observed. In contrast, when no instructions were given
concerning appropriate emotional response, women reported more intense emotions to both negative
and positive stimuli than did men. These findings led the researchers to conclude that a general gender
stereotypical norm was reflected in the observed gender differences in the no-instruction condition,
whereby women are allowed to display their emotions to a greater extent than are men. However, such
a generic norm does not account for the fact that men express anger more often and with greater
intensity, at least when the more aggressive form of this emotion is considered (Eagly & Steffen, 1986;
Frodi, Macaulay, & Thome, 1977); neither does it explain why men express pride more than do women
(Brody & Hall, 1993). More importantly, there was no measure of such a gender-stereotypical norm in
the Grossman and Wood study.
In sum, there is evidence that norms and beliefs concerning men's and women's emotionality
differ: Women are not only believed to be more emotional, but they are also expected to express their
positive emotions, and they are allowed to express negative emotions as long as these expressions do
not hurt others. Men, on the other hand are considered less emotional, and are less permitted to display
Gender-specific beliefs
6
negative, powerless emotions, although they are allowed to display powerful emotions. To date,
however, no studies have directly measured such beliefs, with the result that there is a lack of evidence
concerning the contents of these beliefs and norms, the extent to which they are culturally shared by
men and/or women (Gordon, 1989), and the extent tot which they are normative.
The first aim of the present research was to identify the
type
of beliefs. Pettigrew and
Meertens (1995) have shown that in recent decades more subtle forms of prejudice have come to
preserve racial, ethnic and religious stratification: Western European countries have developed a norm
against blatant (racial) prejudice. Blatant prejudice involves rejection of an outgroup and includes a
belief in the inferiority of the outgroup, whereas subtle prejudice refers to rejection of specific groups
of people, or specific behaviors in specific situations, and can be seen as a covert means of expressing
prejudice. Applying this to gender stereotypes concerning emotion, we assume that people still hold
stereotypical beliefs about men and women, but that these beliefs are subtle rather than blatant. This is
also visible in the popular culture in industrialized countries, which has undergone some marked
changes with respect to ideals of manhood and notions of emotionality (see Pollack & Levant, 1998;
Wouters, 1990). This change is apparent for example in the increasing numbers of men displaying their
emotions in various television programs, in the popularity of the concept of "emotional intelligence" as
an attribute in both women and men, and in the growing demand for social and emotional skills for male
managers (Fineman, 1997). These changes suggest that emotional expressions by males are tolerated to
a greater extent nowadays and may even be equally permitted for men and women. This leads us to
expect that, especially among higher educated people (Wouters, 1990), people subscribe more to
subtle, or descriptive, beliefs than to blatant, or prescriptive, beliefs about men's and women's
emotions, descriptive beliefs being less demanding and less moralizing in nature than prescriptive
beliefs.
Gender-specific beliefs
7
A second aim of this research was to study the
contents
of these beliefs. Do people still hold
sex-stereotypical beliefs about the emotional behavior of men and women or is there a shift towards
less stereotypical or even contra-stereotypical views? The studies reviewed here have suggested that
current stereotypical beliefs concerning gender differences in emotional behavior are that women are
more emotionally expressive than men (e.g., Fabes & Martin, 1991; Johnson & Shulman, 1988; Shields,
1984), especially that women are believed to smile more and to express more positive and communal
feelings (Shulman, 1988), but also more powerless emotions, such as fear, vulnerability and sadness
(Brody, 1997; Cornelius, 1982; Crester, Llombardo, Lombardo, & Mathis, 1982). Men on the other
hand are believed to suppress their emotions, except in the case of powerful emotions (e.g., anger,
aggression).
Overview of the present studies
Belo
w we present one pilot study and three main studies. In the pilot study we examined
whether respondents differed in the extent to which they distinguish between items designed to tap
beliefs about emotional behavior that are prescriptive or descriptive in nature. The purpose of this pilot
was to identify a set of prescriptive and descriptive beliefs for our further research. The aim of Study 1
was to test in a group of student respondents (1) the extent of agreement with different type of beliefs
about emotional behavior: prescriptive and descriptive,
and (2) the stereotypical content of emotion
beliefs. Masculine stereotypes concerning emotions were assumed to consist of displaying powerful
behavior, having power-related preferences, hiding powerlessness, conceiving emotional display as
dysfunctional at work, and having negative attitudes towards emotions. Feminine stereotypes
concerning emotion were assumed to consist of displaying powerlessness behavior, hiding powerful
emotions, sharing emotions, sensitivity-based competence, and women being relatively more emotional
than men. The aim of Study 2 was to replicate Study 1, and, in addition, to compare a student sample
Gender-specific beliefs
8
and a non-student sample with respect to adherence to the different beliefs about emotionality of men
and women. The aim of Study 3 was to test the extent of agreement with these same beliefs, this time
with reference to one's own emotional behavior.
Because of the lack of research on gender-specific beliefs, the extent to which people endorse
such beliefs is far from clear. It is not clear whether there are differences between emotion beliefs about
other people or about one's own behavior. Our hypotheses regarding the type of emotion beliefs about
men's and women's behavior therefore had a tentative character: (1) Respondents should agree more
with descriptive beliefs than with prescriptive beliefs about emotional behavior; (2) respondents should
agree more with stereotypical beliefs about emotional behavior than with contra-stereotypical beliefs
about emotional behavior. There is some evidence that men are less tolerant and less progressive in their
beliefs concerning cross-gender activities for both men and women (Brody, Lovas & Hay, 1995). For
example, fathers tend to differentiate more than mothers between boys and girls in their childrearing
strategies (Lytton & Romney, 1991). Therefore we also predicted (3) that male respondents should
agree more with both prescriptive and stereotypical beliefs about emotional behavior than would female
respondents. Finally, there is some evidence that there is less adherence to prescriptive and
stereotypical beliefs on the part of higher educated people than among less highly educated people
(Wouters, 1990). We therefore expected (4) that non-student respondents should agree more with both
prescriptive and stereotypical beliefs about emotional behavior than would student respondents.
Study 1
Our first aim was to study type and content of different emotion beliefs in order to see whether
respondents agreed (a) more with descriptive beliefs than with prescriptive beliefs concerning men's
and women's emotional reactions, and whether male respondents agreed more with prescriptive beliefs
Gender-specific beliefs
9
than female respondents (Hypotheses 1 and 3); (b) more with stereotypical items than with contra-
stereotypical items concerning men’s and women’s emotional reactions, and whether male respondents
agreed more with stereotypical beliefs than female respondents (Hypothesis 2 and 3).
Method
Participants and procedure
One hundred an
d eighty psychology students (average age 24 years, 114 females, 66 males) at
the University of Amsterdam participated in this study. Respondents completed a questionnaire in
classroom settings, and received course credit for participation.
Materials
A questionnaire consisting of 14 prescriptive and 52 descriptive beliefs about the emotional reactions
of men and women was developed, designed on theoretical (Pettigrew & Meertens, 1995) and face-
validity grounds (see Appendix A). The 14 prescriptive beliefs consisted of negative evaluations of
contra-stereotypical emotional reactions of men and women (e.g., "Men who express fear are weak").
Endorsement of these items reflected intolerance of displays of powerlessness for men, and intolerance
of power for women. The 52 descriptive beliefs were more subtle (Pettigrew & Meertens, 1995). They
consisted of statements about specific aspects of emotional behaviors (e.g., "It is because women are
emotionally sensitive that they are capable of raising children"); statements reflecting negative attitudes
towards stereotype inconsistent emotional behavior
(e.g., "I do not like men who want to discuss their
feelings"); or statements about relative differences between men and women with respect to emotional
behavior (e.g., "Men are more direct than women in their display of anger"). These descriptive beliefs
included statements that are stereotypical for men and for women.
In order to be able to compare beliefs about women with those about men, every item was
formulated once with men as the target, and again with women as the target. Thus every item had both
Gender-specific beliefs
10
a gender-stereotypical and gender contra-stereotypical version (e.g., "Men should not cry"
[stereotypical] versus "Women should not cry" [contra-stereotypical]). In order to avoid encouraging
response sets by constructing one questionnaire solely about males and another solely about females,
we decided to construct two versions of the questionnaire in such a way that each version contained
items referring to men and items referring to women. The first version of the questionnaire contained 14
prescriptive and 52 descriptive items, of which 36 were stereotypical and 30 contra-stereotypical (17
stereotypical and 15 contra-stereotypical items with men as targets; and 19 stereotypical and 15
contra-stereotypical with women as targets). In other words, the second version of the questionnaire
contained the same items as the first version, except for the fact that sex of target was reversed, such
that items that were stereotypical for men in version 1 became contra-stereotypical for women in
version 2 (see Appendix A for the content of the items). The mean scores on the two versions of the
questionnaire did not differ significantly.
In order to establish whether our distinction b
etween prescriptive and descriptive beliefs was
valid, we conducted a pilot study in which 46 students at the University of Amsterdam (24 females, 22
males, average age 22 years) were asked to indicate on a 5-point scale how blunt (1= not at all blunt; 5
= very blunt) a particular item was. In the instructions, a blunt statement was defined as "the opposite
of a subtle statement. A blunt statement is undifferentiated and direct." The reliability of both the
prescriptive and descriptive scales was highly satisfactory (alphas = 92 and .93, respectively).
Respondents rated the prescriptive scale (
M
= 3.86, SD = .78) as significantly more blunt than the
descriptive scale (
M
= 3.16, SD = .56), t(44) = 9.12, p<.001. Further, a comparison of the means of the
two scales with the midpoint (i.e., 3) showed that the mean score on the prescriptive items differed
significantly from the scale midpoint,
t(46)=7.78, p<.001, whereas the mean score on the descriptive
scale did not.
Gender-specific beliefs
11
Because the questionnaire distinguished sat
isfactorily between prescriptive and descriptive
beliefs, the same 66 items were used in Study 1. We again used both versions of the questionnaire. The
only change from the pilot version of the questionnaire was the response scale. Respondents in Study 1
had to indicate on a 7-point Likert-type scale the extent to which they agreed (1= not at all ; 7= totally)
with each item. We constructed two scales by separately summing the scores on the prescriptive and
descriptive items of both versions of the questionnaire and dividing them by the total number of items
of each type. Cronbach's alpha was .88 for the prescriptive belief scale and .91 for the descriptive belief
scale.
Results
Extent of agreement with prescriptive and descriptive beliefs
.
As expected, respondents agreed significantly more with the descriptive than with the prescriptive
scale, t(169) = 22.16, p <.001 (see Table 1 for the means).
_____________________
Insert Table 1 about here
_____________________
Multivariate analysis of variance with sex
of respondent as the factor and the means on
descriptive and prescriptive scales as the dependent variables revealed a significant multivariate effect,
F(2,166) = 10.77, p
<.001. Univariate analyses revealed, as expected, that men agreed significantly more
with the prescriptive scale than did women,
F(1,167) = 16.40, p
<.001. No significant difference was
found on the descriptive subscale.
Agreement with different beliefs as a function of stereotypical content.
Gender-specific beliefs
12
Prescriptive beliefs
. In order to test whether the stereotypical content of the prescriptive beliefs
was seen as applying differently to women than to men, we constructed two subscales (see the
Appendix for a full overview of the items used in the various scales).
1
One scale consisted of
stereotypical masculine beliefs reflecting
intolerance of displays of powerlessness.
Examples of items
in this scale are:‘(Wo)men should not show their sadness; (Wo)men should not show their fear’ (alpha
= .88). The second scale consisted of stereotypical feminine beliefs reflecting
'intolerance of displays of
power
', containing for example: ‘Women should not be aggressive’ (alpha = .58). Multivariate analysis
with sex of target and sex of respondent as the factors and the two subscales as dependent variables
revealed a significant main effect,
F(2, 173) = 10.31, p
<.001. Univariate analyses showed that
respondents did not apply the stereotypical masculine belief subscale differently to men than to
women. However, the stereotypical feminine belief subscale was seen as more applicable to men than
to women, F(1, 174) = 14.30, p <.001 (see Table 2). No sex of respondent effects were found.
_____________________
Insert Table 2 about here
_____________________
Descriptive beliefs
. Eight subscales were constructed with reliabilities ranging from .50 to .73.
Not all items of the questionnaires were included in the subscales
2
, for both statistical (i.e., alphas were
too low) and practical reasons (in some cases a content domain was only represented by one item. The
following four scales measured stereotypical masculine beliefs.
Displaying powerful emotions
’ included
for example the following items: ‘Men are more direct in expressing anger than women’; ‘Men show
their pride in their accomplishments more than women’. Power-related preferences
, including for
example: ‘Men like action movies more than women, because they are more able to identify with that
kind of movie’.
Negative attitudes towards emotional behavior comprised items like: ‘I do not like
Gender-specific beliefs
13
emotional men’; ‘I do not like to discuss my feelings with a man’. The fourth stereotypical masculine
scale
Displaying emotions is dysfunctional at work
, included for example: ‘Occupations in which it is
necessary to keep a cool head, like police officer, neurosurgeon or jet-fighter pilot, are less suitable for
women because they are not able to do this’.
The following four subscales reflected stereotypical feminine beliefs.
Displaying powerless
emotions
, included items like ‘Women are more fearful by nature than men’; ‘Women need more
support when they are sad than (wo)men’.
Social sharing of emotions
consisted of the following items:
‘When women are together, all they talk about is their feelings’.
General emotionality contained items
like: ‘Women are offended more easily than men’; ‘Women are emotionally more unstable than men’.
Sensitivity-based competence
contained items like ‘Because women are more sensitive than men, they
are more suitable for nursing jobs’; ‘It is functional to have (wo)men in the board of directors, because
women are sensitive for the needs of employers’.
Multivariate analysis of variance with sex of target and sex of respondent as the factors and the
eight subscales as the dependent variables revealed a significant multivariate effect,
F(7, 168) = 47.37,
p
<.001. With respect to
stereotypical masculine beliefs
, the univariate analyses showed that the effects
were significant for all four subscales. Respondents were more likely to believe that men display more
powerful emotional behavior than women,
F(1, 175) = 159.75, p<.001, and that men have more power-
related preferences than women, F(1, 175) = 80.55, p<.001. However, they also believed that the
dysfunctionality of displaying emotions at work is more applicable to women than to men,
F(1, 175) =
4.70, p
<.05. Respondents also agreed more with negative attitudes towards emotional behavior when
the target was female than when the target was male,
F(1, 175) = 10.82, p<.01 (see Table 2 for the
means). No sex of respondent effects were found.
Gender-specific beliefs
14
With respect to
stereotypical feminine beliefs
the univariate analyses also showed significant
effects for all subscales. Respondents were more likely to believe that women are relatively more
emotional than are men,
F(1, 175) = 35.82, p
<.001, that women display more powerless emotional
behavior than do men,
F(1, 175) = 118.69, p<.001, and that women share their emotions more than do
men, F(1, 175) = 21.19, p
<.001. In contrast with the expected stereotypes, however, sensitivity-based
competence was endorsed more to men than to women, F(1, 175) = 37.38, p
<.001. Again, no sex of
respondent effects were found.
Finally, in order to investigate the overall agreement with masculine and feminine stereotypes,
we constructed four subscales, one based on stereotypical items about men, one based on stereotypical
items about women, one based on contra-stereotypical items about men and one based on contra-
stereotypical items about women. Cronbach's alphas of these scales ranged from .80 to .88. We first
analyzed whether respondents agreed more with stereotypical items about women than with
stereotypical items about men, and whether respondents agreed more with contra-stereotypical items
about men than with contra-stereotypical items about women. Respondents agreed significantly more
with stereotypical items about women (M=3.32, SD=.99) than with stereotypical items about men
(M=2.66, SD=.72),
t(92) = 10.89, p
<.001. No sex of respondent effects were found. Moreover,
respondents agreed more with contra-stereotypical items about men (M=2.59, SD=.61) than with
contra-stereotypical items about women (M=2.21, SD=.69),
t(89) = 7.74, p
<.001. Again, no sex of
respondent effects were found.
Discussion
The first hypothesis was confirmed. Respondents agreed significantly more with descriptive
beliefs than with prescriptive beliefs about emotional behavior. The second hypothesis stated that
respondents would agree more with stereotypical than with contra-stereotypical beliefs. This
Gender-specific beliefs
15
hypothesis was only partly confirmed. Participants seem to hold more stereotypical beliefs
concerning the emotional behavior of women than concerning the emotional behavior of men. The
analysis of the specific subscales showed that, in line with feminine stereotypes, women are seen as
more emotional, they are expected to display more powerless emotional behavior; to share their
emotions more with others; and to be judged as more dysfunctional when displaying their emotions at
work. Moreover, respondents' ratings also reflected more negative attitudes about emotional behavior
of women than of men.
In contrast, beliefs about men's emotional behavior were less negative and
more diverse, in the sense that participants endorsed both stereotypical and contra-stereotypical
beliefs about men. Thus they believed more strongly that men (as compared to women) express
powerful emotional behavior, and that they have power-related preferences, but at the same time
respondents were more likely to agree that men have a greater competence due to their sensitivity.
Finally, with respect to our third hypothesis, we found that men agreed significantly more with
prescriptive beliefs than did women. This implies that men take a more moralizing stance with respect
to the emotional feelings and behaviors that they believe to be appropriate for men and women.
However, this did not apply to the stereotypical content of the belief items for which we did not find
any sex of respondent effect. Thus, men may be less tolerant, but they do not differ from women in
the contents of their beliefs concerning male and female emotions. In conclusion, these findings suggest
that stereotypical views on women’s emotions are more broadly endorsed, including a negative
attitude towards their emotionality. Stereotypes about the emotions of men seem to be both more
positive and more diverse, including even contra-stereotypical views, such as the idea that men are
believed to be more sensitive than are women.
Study 2
Gender-specific beliefs
16
The aim of our second study was to replicate the findings of Study 1 (with respect to the amount of
agreement with different types of beliefs) and to investigate whether the tendency to agree more with
prescriptive and stereotypical beliefs varies as a function of educational level, such that less well
educated persons are more likely to endorse these beliefs (Hypothesis 4).
Method
Seventy-five students were recruited for the student sub-sample (39 men and 36 women,
different majors, average age 23 years). Respondents in the non-student sub-sample, were 80 shop-
workers (34 men and 46 women, average age 32 years). Respondents completed the questionnaire
individually, and received a small gift as a token of appreciation for their cooperation.
For this study the two versions of the questionnaire used in Study 1 were combined into one
questionnaire. In order to limit the length of the integrated questionnaire, items referring to the same
content domain as other items were dropped, resulting in a 76-item questionnaire. Again, respondents
were asked to indicate the extent of their agreement with each item on a 7-point scale (1 = not at all; 7 =
totally).
Results
Agreement with prescriptive versus descriptive scales
We constructed two scales by averaging the scores on the prescriptive and descriptive items.
Cronbach's alpha was .90 for the prescriptive scale and .89 for the descriptive scale. Consistent with
the results of Study 1, respondents agreed significantly more with the descriptive (
M
=3.15, SD=.62)
than with the prescriptive scale (
M
=1.99, SD=1.74), t(143) = 24.65, p<.001. In order to compare the
responses of students and shop-workers, a multivariate analysis of variance with type of respondent
(student vs. shop-worker) and sex of respondent (male vs. female) as factors and the two belief scales
as the dependent variables was conducted. No significant effects were found.
Gender-specific beliefs
17
Agreement with stereotypical versus contra-stereotypical items
We next constructed two scales, one based on stereotypical items (alpha = .90) and one based
on contra-stereotypical items (alpha = .88). Respondents agreed more with the stereotypical scale (
M
= 3.19, SD
=.73) than with the contra-stereotypical scale (
M
= 2.29, SD =.61), t(143) = 17.29, p<.001.
A multivariate analysis of variance with type of respondent (student vs. shop-worker) and sex of
respondent (male vs. female) as factors revealed no significant effects.
Agreement with stereotypical and contra-stereotypical items about men and women
Four subscales were constructed, one based on stereotypical items about men, one based on
stereotypical items about women, one based on contra-stereotypical items about men, and one based
on contra-stereotypical items about women. Alphas of these subscales ranged from .77 to .86. We first
analyzed whether respondents agreed more with stereotypical items about women than with
stereotypical items about men, and whether respondents agreed more with contra-stereotypical items
about men than with contra-stereotypical items about women. Respondents agreed significantly more
with stereotypical items about women (
M
= 3.70; SD
= .79) than with stereotypical items about men
(
M
= 2.69; SD =.82), t(145) = 18.61, p
<.001. However, in this study men (
M
= 2.93; SD = .78)
agreed more with stereotypical items about men than did women (
M
= 2.49, SD = .80), t(150) = 3.46,
p
<.001. Respondents also agreed more with contra-stereotypical items about men (M = 2.48; SD =.64)
than with contra-stereotypical items about women (
M
= 1.95; SD = .63, t
(151) = 13.00, p <.001, but
here no sex of respondent effect was found.
Discussion
The prediction that less well educated respondents would agr
ee more with prescriptive and
stereotypical beliefs than would student respondents was not confirmed: No significant differences in
extent of agreement with prescriptive and stereotypical beliefs (or indeed with descriptive or contra-
stereotypical beliefs) were found as a function of education. The findings from Study 1 with respect to the
Gender-specific beliefs
18
prescriptive and descriptive type of the beliefs were replicated, with one exception. Men were not more
likely than women to agree with prescriptive beliefs, although they did agree more with stereotypical
beliefs than did women. The findings with respect to the stereotypical or contra-stereotypical form of the
beliefs were also replicated: There is more agreement on stereotypes concerning women’s emotions than
concerning men’s emotions.
Study 3
One frequent explanation for sex differences in emotional behavior is an individual's beliefs,
norms and values. These belief systems are social in nature, in that they have been developed in the
context of cultural practices. Studies 1 and 2 have shown that stereotypical beliefs about the emotional
behavior of men and women differ, and that there are different norms concerning the extent to which men
and women should experience and express emotions. An important question that remains is whether these
beliefs and norms are applied to one's own emotional reactions. Baanders (1997) for example found that
personal adherence to specific emotion beliefs influenced both the intensity and the display of emotion,
whereas mere knowledge of specific emotion beliefs, without personal adherence to this norm, only
affected the display of the emotion.
There are reasons for thinking that the extent to which stereotypical versus contra-stereotypical
emotion beliefs are endorsed will vary as a function of whether one is judging one's own behavior versus
that of a generalized other. Stereotypes are generalizations about the qualities and characteristics of the
members of a particular group. They are typically biased in the sense that they are too simplistic, too
extreme and too uniform (Miller, 1982). Some researchers have argued that stereotypes are discarded
when people are able to access a relevant database of specific concrete experiences (Eagly & Steffen,
1984; LaFrance & Banaji, 1992). We should therefore expect commonly held stereotypes to be less
influential in case of the context-specific, descriptive beliefs, because people have access to their own
specific, concrete emotional experiences.
As noted earlier, one problem in studying beliefs is
that people probably try to avoid reporting
"politically incorrect" beliefs (Pettigrew & Meertens, 1995), and are therefore reluctant to express or
endorse stereotypical beliefs (especially prescriptive ones) concerning emotional behavior. We suggest
Gender-specific beliefs
19
that this problem is more likely to play a role when expressing attitudes or beliefs about social groups,
because one is then more likely to be guarding against biased judgements. When asking people about
personal attributes, they are quick to distinguish oneself from fellow group members (Tesser & Paulhus,
1983). This tendency to see oneself as unique is likely to result in a lesser tendency to ascribe stereotypes
to oneself than to others. It follows that the desire to control one's stereotyping should be weaker when
describing oneself, as opposed to others. Observed gender differences in the self-descriptions are
therefore more likely to reflect actual rather than "adjusted" differences.
The aims of this study were to explore (a) whether respondents agreed mo
re with descriptive or
prescriptive beliefs concerning their own emotional reactions, (b) whether male respondents agreed more
with prescriptive beliefs than did female respondents, and (c) whether respondents agreed more with
stereotypical beliefs than with contra-stereotypical beliefs about their emotional behavior.
Method
Participants and material
Two hundred and seventy-nine psychology students (208 females, 71 males, average age 22
years) at the University of Amsterdam participated. They received course credit for participation. The
basis for the questionnaire used in the present study was the questionnaire used in Study 1. This time, the
items were formulated in the first person. For example, the item "Men should not cry" was rephrased as
"In general, I should not cry." A necessary consequence of this change is that sex of respondent is
equivalent to sex of target. We omitted the items concerned with negative feelings about the emotional
behavior of others, and the items concerning assumed differences between men and women with respect
to the experience and expression of emotions, because they could not be translated into the first person
form without sounding artificial. The questionnaire as used in the present study contained 48 items, of
which 12 were prescriptive and 36 descriptive. Twenty-two were stereotypical for men (i.e., contra-
stereotypical for women) and 26 were stereotypical for women (i.e. contra-stereotypical for men).
Respondents indicated their agreement or disagreement with each item on a 7-point scale (1= not at all; 7=
totally).
Gender-specific beliefs
20
We first constructed two scales by averaging scores on the descriptive and prescriptive items.
Cronbach's alpha was .88 for the prescriptive scale and .78 for the descriptive scale. For our further
analyses, we constructed two other scales, one based on items stereotypical for men (alpha = .80), the
other based on items stereotypical for women (alpha = .80). We also constructed
two sub scales
concerning prescriptive beliefs, one based on beliefs reflecting 'intolerance for displaying powerlessness'
(alpha = .90) and one based on beliefs reflecting 'intolerance for displaying power' (alpha = .61).
Because some items had been omitted from the questionnaire, there were fewer sub scales
concerning the
descriptive beliefs than
in Study 1. We constructed five sub scales, with alphas ranging from .52 to .65.
Results
Agreement with prescriptive versus descriptive beliefs
As expected, respondents endorsed the descriptive beliefs (
M = 3.75; SD
= .46) more strongly than the
prescriptive beliefs (
M = 3.02; SD = 1.09), t(266) = 12.18, p
<.001. A multivariate analysis of variance,
using sex of respondent as the factor and the means for the descriptive and prescriptive beliefs as
dependent variables, revealed no significant effect.
Agreement of men and women with stereotypical versus contra-stereotypical items
T-tests with the stereotypical masculine scale and the stereotypical feminine scale and sex of respondent
as factor, showed that men were significantly more likely than women to endorse masculine stereotypical
items,
t(274) = 2.96, p
<.01. Similarly, women were significantly more likely than men to endorse feminine
stereotypical items,
t(270) = 3.11, p
<.01. Women's endorsement of the feminine stereotypical items was
also significantly greater than their agreement with the masculine stereotypical items,
t(195) = 8.39,
p
<.001. However, men were no more likely to agree with the masculine stereotypical items than with the
feminine stereotypical items (see Table 3 for the means).
___________________
Insert Table 3 about here
___________________
Prescriptive beliefs
. Multivariate analysis of variance with sex of respondent as factor and the two scales
concerning intolerance of power and intolerance of powerlessness displays as the dependent variables
Gender-specific beliefs
21
revealed a marginally significant multivariate effect of sex of respondent,
F
(2, 276) = 2.81,
p <.07.
Univariate analyses showed that men were more likely than women to agree with the belief that displaying
powerful emotions, such as aggression, is unacceptable for themselves,
F
(1, 277) = 5.46,
p
<.05. Male and
female respondents did not differ with respect to the intolerance for the display of powerless emotions
(see Table 4 for the means).
Descriptive beliefs
. Multivariate analysis of variance with sex of respondent as factor and the five sub
scales as dependent variables revealed a significant multivariate main effect,
F
(5, 276) = 7.61,
p<.0001.
Univariate analyses showed significant effects for three sub scales (see Table 4 for the means). Men were
more likely than women to agree that they display powerful emotional behavior,
F
(1, 280) = 4.96,
p
<.01;
women were more likely than men to judge their emotional displays as dysfunctional at work,
F(1, 280) =
8.96, p
<.01; and men were more likely than women to agree that they have power-related preferences,
F(1,
280) = 12.41, p
<.001. Displaying powerful emotional behavior and having a sensitivity-based competence
was not judged to be differently applicable by male and female respondents.
___________________
Insert Table 4 about here
___________________
Discussion
As in Study 1, respondents agreed mor
e with descriptive than with prescriptive beliefs. However, it
is worth noting that the mean scores, especially in the case of prescriptive beliefs, were higher than those
observed in Study 1. In contrast with the results of Study 1, but in agreement with Study 2, there was no
effect of sex of respondent on extent of agreement with prescriptive beliefs. Turning to agreement with
stereotypical or contra-stereotypical contents of beliefs, the results are broadly consistent with those of
Study 1, although the means were again much higher than in Study 1.
One important difference with Study 1 is that there is no difference between men and women in
the extent to which they agree with items concerning stereotypical feminine emotions. Whereas the results
of Study 1 showed that respondents believed that women display more powerless emotional behavior than
Gender-specific beliefs
22
do men, the results of Study 3 do not confirm this expectation: No sex differences were found with
respect to powerless emotion displays. Further, whereas respondents in Study 1 believed that men would
be more suitable for jobs and roles that require emotional sensitivity, a sex difference in this direction was
not found in Study 3. Overall, the present study shows that the beliefs people endorse about emotional
behavior of other men and other women do not differ greatly with respect to type or content from the
beliefs people endorse about themselves. The largest difference between responding to belief statements
about the emotional behavior of others and the same belief statements concerning one's own emotional
behavior is the extent of agreement. Respondents gave higher ratings on items concerning their own
emotional behavior than did respondents in Study 1, who were asked to rate beliefs concerning the
emotional behavior of men or women in general. It is not possible to determine whether this difference
arose from the tendency of Study 1 participants to correct for stereotype bias, or from the greater
accessibility of participants in Study 2 of their own experiences and behaviors, or from a combination of
these and/or still other factors.
General Discussion
Our first hypothesis was that respondents would agree more with descriptive than with
prescriptive beliefs about emotional behavior. This hypothesis was confirmed in all three studies. We
interpret this as reflecting the operation of two complementary processes. First, gender roles and ideals of
manhood and womanhood may have changed such that norms and prescriptive beliefs about the display
of emotions may have become less rigid and less bound to gender codes, allowing greater variability of
emotional displays for men and women. Moreover, the rise of emotion television, and the increasing focus
on the importance of expressing and communicating emotions in Western culture during the last decades
may also have added to this effect. Second, the greater cultural awareness of the unacceptability of
outgroup stereotyping has led many people in Western countries to be cautious in making generalizations
about members of an outgroup. There is a norm against the expression of blatant prejudice, both in North
America (Wilson, 1996) and in Western European countries (Pettigrew & Meertens, 1995) and this norm
also seems to apply to the emotional life of men and women.
Gender-specific beliefs
23
Our secon
d hypothesis was that people would agree more with stereotypical beliefs than with
contra-stereotypical beliefs about emotional behavior. This hypothesis was also confirmed: Respondents
in all studies agreed more with stereotypical beliefs than with contra-stereotypical beliefs. This is
consistent with other findings that stereotypes concerning gender differences are still quite widely held
(Brody, 1997; Fischer, 1993; LaFrance & Banaji, 1992). However, we also found that this greater
endorsement of stereotypical beliefs was not symmetrical for male and female targets. Both male and
female respondents generally held more stereotypical views about the emotions of women than of men.
Thus, women are still seen as the emotional sex, whereas men are no longer seen as the unemotional sex.
Women are expected to display powerless emotions, like sadness and disappointment, to talk a lot about
emotions with others, and to show so much emotion at work that it becomes dysfunctional. This
emotional repertoire of women is not evaluated very positively, given that respondents have more negative
attitudes towards women displaying emotions than towards men displaying emotions. Men on the other
hand are not solely perceived from a stereotypical perspective. They are seen as displaying more powerful
emotional behavior, and having more power-related preferences, but they are also believed to have
emotional sensitivity, even more than do women. This makes them suitable for stereotypically female
roles, such as nursing, caring for children,
in addition to
stereotypical masculine roles and jobs. Thus,
beliefs about women's emotional behavior conform quite closely to the classic stereotype of the
"emotional woman," whereas beliefs about men's emotional behavior suggest a greater tolerance of
departures from the stereotype of the "unemotional man."
The finding that expressing emotion was evaluated more positively in the case of men than in the
case of women may reflect changing cultural views of emotionality (Wouters, 1990). Depending on how
it is framed, emotional behavior can be seen as skilled behavior rather than merely a display of irrationality
or weakness. Goleman (1995) for example has argued that emotional competence is highly functional,
and even indispensable, in working life. In thinking about men who express emotions at work,
respondents may have imagined men who have an open and empathic style of communication, whereas in
thinking about women who express their emotions, they may have imagined women who burst into tears
in the middle of a meeting. Thus, the more positive evaluation of men's emotions compared to women's
Gender-specific beliefs
24
emotions may be due to the different interpretation of emotionality in the context of male and female
behavior. For men, emotions still seem to be more associated with ability, with good social and emotional
skills, whereas for women emotions remain linked to stereotypical femininity, that is, to their vulnerability,
and thus to their loss of control and power.
Interestingly, this greater distancing from the m
ale stereotype is not reflected in men’s views
concerning their own emotions and emotional behavior. Although they are less tolerant towards the
expression of their own powerful emotions than are women, they still think that they display more
powerful emotions than do women, and they do not believe to have a sensitivity-based competence to the
same degree as do women. This discrepancy suggests that the stereotypes about men more strongly
reflect changing cultural norms than the self-reported emotional behavior justifies. Whereas the beliefs
about men’s emotions in general also reflect contra-stereotypical views, these are not found in men’s
judgements of their own emotional behavior. In other words, men’s own emotions seem to lag behind the
changing cultural norms in Western culture. Furthermore, the mean levels of endorsement to stereotypical
masculine or feminine beliefs were, as anticipated, markedly higher when applied to one’s own emotions.
We argued that this reflects the fact that respondents were less inclined to control for biased responses
when answering questions about their own behavior than when answering questions about the behavior of
a social group (especially an outgroup), thereby reducing their awareness of the need to rely on
stereotypes and the corresponding need to control the use of this stereotype information. Other studies of
gender differences in self-reports of emotional behavior (e.g., Grossman & Wood, 1993) have also
reported stereotypes concerning the emotional behavior of men and women. Indeed, LaFrance and Banaji
(1992) noted that stereotypical gender differences are especially large in self-reports (as opposed to
observations) of emotional behavior.
There was some support for our third hypothesis that men are less tolerant and le
ss progressive in
their beliefs concerning emotional behavior. We found that men agreed more with prescriptive beliefs
concerning the emotional behavior of others than did women, however, no differences were found for the
descriptive beliefs. We also found in one study that men agreed more with stereotypical beliefs about
Gender-specific beliefs
25
men, albeit not about women. Thus, men have a slightly greater tendency than women to endorse more
blatant and stereotypical views concerning emotional displays, especially with regard to their own sex.
Finally, the fourth hypothesis had to be rejected. The notion that level of educational attainment
would account for differences in beliefs about men's and women's emotional behavior was not borne out
by the findings, although it has to be acknowledged that the student versus shop-worker comparison used
to test this hypothesis does not sample the extremes of the continuum of educational attainment.
To our knowledge this is the first empirical study of beliefs about the emotional behavior of men
and women. The finding that different beliefs are held as a function of the sex of the target person
suggests that beliefs about emotion play an important role in the acquisition and practice of gender coded
emotional behavior (Shields, 1995). Although we have not yet established that the different beliefs about
the emotional behavior of men and women actually lead to (as opposed to result from) differences in the
actual emotional behavior of men and women, the mere existence of these belief differences is likely at the
very least to contribute to the maintenance of differences at the level of actual behavior. It is well
established that beliefs have the potential to be self-fulfilling (Snyder, 1984), and that the tendency for the
targets of beliefs to behave in a way that confirms these beliefs applies to beliefs about gender as well as
to beliefs about race or intelligence. On these grounds it seems very likely that stereotypical emotion
beliefs shape one's interpretations of and reactions to the emotional behavior of others, thereby
influencing their current and future emotional behavior. Since we have shown that these beliefs are held
even more strongly in relation to one's own emotional behavior, gender differences in emotional behavior
may also be sustained by differences in men's and women's beliefs about their own emotions. The fact
that men and women report different motives for regulating emotional expressions (Timmers, Fischer &
Manstead, 1998) may be one consequence of these belief differences. The next step for research in this
domain is to demonstrate that differences in beliefs about emotion do indeed have an impact on the way in
which people judge and respond to the emotional behavior of themselves and others, and thereby help to
create and sustain gender differences in this behavior.
Gender-specific beliefs
26
References
Baanders, M. F. (1997).
The rules of the game. Emotion norms in daily life
. Unpublished
doctoral dissertation, University of Leiden.
Brody, L. R., & Hall, J. A. (1993). Gender and emotion. In M. Lewis & J. M. Haviland (Eds.),
Handbook of emotions
(pp. 447-461). New York: Guilford.
Brody, L. R., Lovas, G. S., & Hay, D. H. (1995). Gender differences in anger and fear as a
function of situational context.
Sex Roles, 32
, 47-79.
Brody, L. R. (1997). Gender and emotions: Beyond stereotypes.
Journal of Social Issues, 53
,
369-394.
Cornelius, R. R. (1982). Weeping as social interaction: The interpersonal logic of the moist eye.
Dissertation Abstracts International. 42
, 3491B-3492B.
Crester, G. A., Lombardo, W. K., Lombardo, B., & Mathis, S. (1982). Reactions to men and
women who cry: A study of sex difference in perceived societal attitudes versus personal attitudes.
Perceptual and Motor Skills, 55, 479-486.
Eagly, A. H. & Steffen, V. J. (1986). Gender and aggressive behaviour. A meta-analytic review
of the social psychological literature.
Psychological Bulletin, 100
, 309-330.
Ekman, P., & Friesen, W. V. (1969). The repertoire of non-verbal behavior: Origins, usage, and
coding.
Semiotica, 1
, 49-98.
Fabes, R. A., & Martin, C. L. (1991). Gender and age stereotypes of emotionality.
Personality
and Social Psychology Bulletin, 5
, 532-540.
Feldman Barrett, L. (1997). The relationship among momentary emotion experiences,
personality descriptions, and retrospective ratings of emotion.
Personality and Social Psychology
Bulletin, 10, 1100-1110.
Gender-specific beliefs
27
Feldman Barrett, L., Robin, L., Pietromonaco, P. R., Eyssel, K. M. (1998). Are women the
"more emotional sex'? Evidence form emotional experiences in social context.
Cognition and Emotion,
12, 555-578.
Fineman, S. (1997). Emotion and management learning.
Management-Learning, 28
, 13-25.
Fischer, A. H. (1993). Sex differences in emotionality: Fact or stereotype?
Feminism and
Psychology, 3, 303-318.
Fischer, A. H., & Jansz, J. (1995). Reconciling emotions with Western personhood. Journal for
the Theory of Social Behaviour
, 25, 59-81.
Forsyth, D. R. (1995). Norms. In A. S. R. Manstead & M. Hewstone (Eds.),
The Blackwell
Encyclopedia of Social Psychology (pp. 413-417)
. Oxford: Basil Blackwell.
Frodi, A., Macaulay, J., & Thome, P. R. (1977). Are women always less aggressive than men?
A review of the experimental literature.
Psychological Bulletin, 84
, 634-660.
Goffman, E. (1961). Encounters. Indianapolis, IN: Bobbs-Merill.
Goleman, D. (1995).
Emotional intelligence. Why it can matter more than IQ
. New York:
Bantam Books.
Gordon, S. (1989). The socialization of children's emotions: Emotional culture, competence, and
exposure. In C. Saarni & P.L. Harris (Eds.),
Children's understanding of emotion (pp. 319-349).
Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press.
Graham J. W., Gentry K., W. & Green, J. (1981). The self-presentational nature of emotional
expression: Some evidence.
Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 7
, 467-474.
Grossman, M., & Wood, W. (1993). Sex differences in the intensity of emotional experience: a
social role interpretation. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 65, 1010-1022.
Gender-specific beliefs
28
Harré, R., & Parrott, W. G. (1996
). The emotions: Social, Cultural and Biological Dimensions
.
London: Sage.
Hochschild, A. (1983).
The managed heart
. Berkeley, CA: University of California Press.
Johnson, J. T., & Shulman, G. A. (1988). More alike than meets the eye: Perceived gender
differences in subjective experience and its display.
Sex Roles, 19
, 67-79.
Kring A. M. & Gordon, A. H. (1998). Sex differences in emotion: Expression, experience and
physiology.
Journal of Personality and Social Psychology 74, 686-703.
Labott, S. M., Martin, R. B., Eason, P. S., & Berkey, E. Y. (1991). Social reactions to the
expression of emotion.
Cognition and Emotion, 5
, 397-419.
LaFrance, M., & Banaji, M. (1992). Toward a reconsideration of the gender-emotion
relationship. In M. S. Clark (Ed.), Review of personality and social psychology, Vol. 14: Emotions and
Social Behavior (pp. 178-202). Newbury Park, CA: Sage.
Lytton, H., & Romney, D. M. (1991). Parents' differential socialization of boys and girls: A
meta-analysis.
Psychological Bulletin, 109
, 267-296.
Miller, A. G. (1982). In the eye of the beholder:
Contemporary issues in stereotyping
. New
York: Praeger.
Parkinson, B (1991). Emotional stylists: Strategies of expressive management among trainee
hairdressers.
Cognition and Emotion, 5
, 419-434.
Pettigrew, T. F., & Meertens, R. W. (1995). Subtle and blatant prejudice in Western Europe.
European Journal of Social Psychology, 25
, 57-75.
Pollack, W. S. (Ed) and Levant, R. F. (Ed) (1998).
New Psychotherapy for men
. New York:
John Wiley and Sons.
Gender-specific beliefs
29
Saarni, C. (1984). An observational study of children's attempt to monitor their expressive
behavior. Developmental Psychology, 55, 1504-1513.
Shields, S. A. (1984). Distinguishing between emotion and nonemotion: Judgements about
experience.
Motivation and Emotion, 8, 355-369.
Shields, S. A. (1987). Women, men, and the dilemma of emotion. In P.Shaver & C. Hendrick
(Eds.),
Sex and Gender
. Newbury Park, CA: Sage.
Snyder, M. (1984). When belief creates reality. In L. Berkowitz (Ed
.) Advances in experimental
social psychology Vol. 18 (pp 248-306)
. New York: Academic Press
Stoppard, J. M., & Gunn Gruchy, C. D. (1993). Gender, context and expression of positive
emotion.
Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 19
, 143-150.
Tesser, A., & Paulhus, D. (1983). The definition of self: Private and public self-evaluation
maintenance strategies.
Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 44, 672-682.
Timmers, M., Fischer, A. H., & Manstead, A. S. R. (1998). Gender differences in motives for
regulating emotions.
Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 24
, 974-985.
Wilson, T. C., (1996). Compliments will get you nowhere: Benign stereotypes, prejudice and
anti-semitism.
Sociological Quarterly, 37
, 465-479.
Wouters, C. (1990).
Van minnen en sterven
[About loving and dying]. Amsterdam: Bert Bakker.
Gender-specific beliefs
30
Authors’ Note.
Correspondence concerning this article should be addressed to Agneta Fischer, Department of Social
Psychology, University of Amsterdam, Roetersstraat 15, 1018 WB Amsterdam, the Netherlands (e-mail:
sp_fiscgher@macmail.psy.uva.nl), or to Monique Timmers, who is now at the Department of
Communication Science of the University of Amsterdam, Oude Hoogstraat 24, 1012 CE Amsterdam, The
Netherlands (e-
mail: timmers@pscw.uva.nl.
Gender-specific beliefs
31
Table 1
Mean Amount of Agreement (standard deviations in parentheses) with Prescriptive and Descriptive
Beliefs by Males and Females (Study 1)
_____________________________________________________________________
Sex of Respondent
Male
Female
Total
Beliefs (N=66) (N=114) (N=180)
_____________________________________________________________________
Prescriptive 2.14
a
(.74) 1.69
b
(.80) 1.86 (.73)
Descriptive 2.94
c
(.72) 2.86
c
(.63) 2.89 (.66)
_____________________________________________________________________
Note. Different superscripts refer to significant differences between groups.
Gender-specific beliefs
32
Table 2.
Mean (standard deviations in parentheses) Amount of Agreement with Prescriptive and Descriptive
Beliefs about Men and Women (Study 1)
Sex of Target
Male
Female
Prescriptive Subscales
Intolerance of Power Displays
3.17 (1.20) 2.48 (1.26)
Intolerance of Powerlessness Displays
1.70 (.83) 1.60 (.62)
Descriptive Subscales
Stereotypical masculine:
Displaying Powerful Emotions 4.67 (1.08) 2.74 (.93)
Power-related Preferences
3.22 (1.37) 1.71 (.76)
Negative Attitudes towards Emotional Behavior 2.42 (1.05) 2.91 (1.05)
Displaying Emotions is Dysfunctional at Work
2.18 (.92) 2.51 (1.06)
Stereotypical feminine:
Displaying Powerless Emotions 2.28 (.86) 3.97 (1.19)
Sharing Emotions
2.78 (.96) 3.40 (.81)
Relative Emotionality 2.86 (.96) 3.66 (1.18)
Sensitivity-based Competence 3.22 (1.35) 2.17 .91)
Gender-specific beliefs
33
Table 3
Mean (standard deviations in parentheses) Amount of Agreement with Masculine and Feminine
Stereotypical Beliefs as a Function of Sex of Respondent (Study 3)
_________________________________________________________________
Sex of Respondents
Men
Women
N=71 N=208
Masculine Stereotypes
3.48
a
(.71) 3.19
b
(.77)
Feminine Stereotypes 3.45
a
(.56) 3.72
c
(.53)
________________________________________________________________
Note. Different superscripts refer to significant differences between groups.
Gender-specific beliefs
34
Table 4
Mean (standard deviations in parentheses) Amount of Agreement with Prescriptive and Descriptive
Beliefs about one’s Own Emotions (Study 3)
_________________________________________________________________
Sex of Respondents
Men
Women
N=71 N=208
Prescriptive
Intolerance of Power Displays
3.67 (1.22) 3.30 (1.23)
Intolerance of Powerless Displays
2.80 (1.10) 2.64 (1.27)
Descriptive
Displaying Powerless Emotions 3.95 (.82) 4.23 (.95)
Displaying Powerful Emotions 4.02 (1.07) 3.44 (.95) **
Emotions are Dysfunctional at Work 2.22 (.83) 2.61 (.99)**
Having Power-related Preferences
2.46 (1.52) 1.88 (1.06)***
Sensitivity-based Competence 4.64 (1.21) 4.53 (1.15)
______________________________________________________________________
Note. ***=p<.0001, **=p<.01
Gender-specific beliefs
35
Appendix A
Stereotypical male beliefs (prescriptive)
a
Men should not show their sadness.
Men should not show their disappointment.
Men should not show their fear.
Men should not cry.
Men should control their feelings.
Men who express their fear are weak.
Men who express their disappointment are weak.
Men who express their emotions are weak.
Men who express their sadness are weak.
Stereotypical female beliefs (prescriptive)
Women should not be aggressive. #
Women should not show their anger.
I feel vulnerable when I show my anger (only used in Study 3)
I feel vulnerable when I show my disappointment (only used in Study 3)
I appear self-assured when I display my anger (only used in Study 3)
It is good to show your emotions (only used in Study 3)
It is healthy to express your emotions (only used in Study 3)
Stereotypical male beliefs (descriptive)
Displaying powerful emotions
Men are more direct in expressing their anger than are women.
Men show their pride about their accomplishments more than do women. #
Men are more able to hide their fear than do women.*
Men hide their fear by acting tough.
I express my anger to show that I cannot be mocked at.
Power-related preferences
Men like action movies more than women, because they are more able to identify with that kind
of movies*.
Martial arts are more suitable for men than for women, because they can express their aggression.
Gender-specific beliefs
36
Negative attitudes towards emotional behavior
I do not like emotional men.*#
I do not like men who show their pride, because it is boasting behavior.*#
I do not like men who want to discuss their feelings.#
I do not like jealous men.#
When confronted with a crying man, I feel uncomfortable.#
I do not like to discuss my feelings with a man.#
Men who show too much that they are in love are too sentimental.*
I do not like men who cry easily, because I think it is manipulative behavior. #
I do not like men who respond with excessive enthusiasm, because it is too much.*#
Men bother other people with their feelings.#
Dysfunctionality of emotions at work
Emotional men are not functional in industrial life.*
Men who show their emotions at work are hard to take seriously.*
It is better that men who have a management position do not show their feelings
Occupations where it is necessary to keep a cool head, like police-officers, surgeons or jet-fighter pilots are
less suitable for women because they are not able to do so.*
When men become emotional easily, they are not suitable for management positions.*
It is not professional when a man cries at work.
Stereotypical female beliefs (descriptive)
Displaying powerless emotions
Women need more support when they are sad than do men.
Women are more fearful by nature than men.
Women are warmer than men.*
Women do not dare to show their anger because they take into account other people’s feelings.
Social sharing of emotions
When women are together, all they talk about is their feelings.
Women talk more often about their emotions than men.
General emotionality
Women fall more easily in love than men.
Gender-specific beliefs
37
Women get jealous more easily than men.*
#
Women are more emotionally unstable than men.*
Women are more sensitive than men.
Men are less complicated in their feelings than women.*
Women get angry more easily than men.*
#
Women are offended more easily than men.*#
Women stay angry longer than men.
Women are more curious about their feelings than men.*
Women respond more enthusiastically than do men when you talk about something you like yourself.
Sensitivity-based competence/preferences
Because women are more sensitive than men, they are more suitable for nursing jobs.
It is easier to talk with women about your feelings than with men.*
Because women are sensitive, they are capable of raising children. #
It is functional to have a women in the board of directors, because they are sensitive for the needs of
employees.
Note.
a.
Contra-stereotypical items were created by changing ‘men’ into ‘women’ and vice versa.
* Items depicted with an asterix were deleted in the short version of the questionnaire, used in Study 2,
items signed with a # were deleted in Study 3.
1
Three items (‘Emotional (wo)men are no real women’ ‘
(Wo)men who express their anger are weak’
and ‘aggressive
(wo)men are no real women’) were deleted, because they decreased the reliabilities of the scales significantly.
2
The following items were not included:
‘The difference between men and women in their emotionality is an invariable fact’; ‘(Wo)men who become angry quite
often, better not choose a nursing job’; ‘It is hard to discuss with (wo)men because they get emotional so quickly’; ‘When
(wo)men are toghether they speak about almost everything, except of their feelings’; ‘(Wo)men are more emotional than
men’; ‘(Wo)men are less able than (wo)men to distinguish emotional arguments from rational arguments’; ‘(Wo)men love
tearjerkers (movies)’; ‘(Wo)men who cry while watching a movie are sympathetic’; ‘Women are more sensitive than men’.
... Indeed, there is a strong belief that women, more so than men, tend to care about and be sensitive to the feelings of other people (Prentice and Carranza, 2002;White and Gardner, 2009;Haines et al., 2016). Stereotypes around emotion expression in particular portray women as well-suited to comply with emotional display rules that require gauging and responding to others' emotions (Lopez-Zafra and and expressing positivity and interpersonal sensitivity (Shields, 2002;Timmers et al., 2003;Fischbach et al., 2015). People tend to implicitly associate the expression of anger with men (Bijlstra et al., 2010;Neel et al., 2012;Smith et al., 2015); indeed, men are commonly stereotyped as aggressive or violent (Leach et al., 2017) and as more likely than women to display negative emotions such as anger and hostility (Plant et al., 2000;Shields, 2000)-behaviors that are incompatible with emotional labor practices. ...
... Thus, the emotional makeup of women is viewed as incompatible with some of the intrapersonal emotional labor requirements of high-level positions (Fischbach et al., 2015), leading to close scrutiny of female powerholders' emotional expression. For example, women in top positions elicit more negative evaluations than men in similar roles for expressing anger (Lewis, 2000;Timmers et al., 2003;Brescoll and Uhlmann, 2008), a highly dominant emotion that is typically off limits for low-power individuals (Plant et al., 2000;Tiedens et al., 2000;Petkanopoulou et al., 2019) as well as powerful women (but tends to be condoned in high-power men). But the demand on powerful women to deamplify emotion for the benefit of others does not only target negative emotions, but all emotions more generally (for reviews, see Brescoll, 2016;Smith et al., 2016). ...
Full-text available
Article
Women use power in more prosocial ways than men and they also engage in more emotional labor (i.e., self-regulate their emotions to respond and attend to the needs and emotions of other people in a way that advances organizational goals). However, these two constructs have not been previously connected. We propose that gendered emotional labor practices and pressures result in gender differences in the prosocial use of power. We integrate the literature on emotional labor with research on the psychology of power to articulate three routes through which this happens. First, women may be more adept than men at the intrapersonal and interpersonal processes entailed in emotional labor practices—a skill that they can apply at all hierarchical levels. Second, given women’s stronger internal motivation to perform emotional labor, they construe power in a more interdependent manner than men, which promotes a more prosocial use of power. As a result, female powerholders tend to behave in more prosocial ways. Third, when they have power, women encounter stronger external motivation to engage in emotional labor, which effectively constrains powerful women’s behaviors in a way that fosters a more prosocial use of power. We discuss how, by promoting prosocial behavior among powerholders, emotional labor can be beneficial for subordinates and organizations (e.g., increase employee well-being and organizational trust), while simultaneously creating costs for individual powerholders, which may reduce women’s likelihood of actually attaining and retaining power by (a) making high-power roles less appealing, (b) guiding women toward less prestigious and (c) more precarious leadership roles, (d) draining powerful women’s time and resources without equitable rewards, and (e) making it difficult for women to legitimize their power in the eyes of subordinates (especially men). Thus, emotional labor practices can help explain the underrepresentation of women in top leadership positions.
... In sharp contrast, starting from 1960, body terms have become more and more frequent in female books as compared to male writings. The attention to the body and higher use of terms related to it by female authors can probably be attributed to the rise of the second wave of feminism (i.e., from stereotype of women being more emotional and expressive than men [36][37][38][39] . Related to this, Tenenbaum and colleagues 40 report that primary school girls use emotion words more often than boys when asked to narrate a wordless picture book. ...
Full-text available
Preprint
Whether the socioeconomic disparity between men and women is associated with sex differences in cultural products is largely unexplored. An essential cultural institution is represented by literature, which is an expression of society and, thus, can be used to study society itself. Here, we explore sex differences in published literature over the last three centuries and their relationship with societal progress. We show that dissimilarities in writing style have decreased over time and that male and female authors use similar terms in more economically developed societies. Residual disparities are associated with gender stereotypes and affective lexicon. As compared to male authors, females use on average more positive and less arousing words. Nonetheless, throughout the last century, the difference in valence between the sexes has declined, bridging the gap in writings of the last two decades. Our findings demonstrate that societal progress promotes the reduction of sex-related differences in cultural products.
... In line with these findings, prior work has found that participants associate men with more emotional competence than women (Hess et al., 2016;Shields & Crowley, 1996). For example, Timmers et al. (2003) found that participants believed men are better than women in situations where sensitivity is required for competence, such as in nursing, although one study did find that men who were described as working in a job that required emotional skill and sensitivity were seen as more insecure and wishy-washy than a woman in the same job (Heilman & Wallen, 2010). And while past studies have found that participants generally view shedding tears to signal a loss of control (Vingerhoets et al., 2000), participants rate men who cry in modest amounts more positively than women who cry similar amounts (Warner & Shields, 2007). ...
Full-text available
Article
With one in eight Americans thinking women are too emotional to be in politics (Carnevale et al., 2019), being labeled as emotional during a disagreement may activate stereotypes about a woman's irrationality and affect how legitimate people perceive her arguments to be. We experimentally tested the effects of such labels. In Study 1 ( N = 86), participants who read a vignette where a woman (versus a man) was told to “calm down” during a disagreement, saw her argument as significantly less legitimate. Perceived emotionality mediated the relation between condition and perceived legitimacy. Study 2 replicated this finding ( N = 126) with different vignettes where the character was explicitly labeled as “emotional.” Using video vignettes in Study 3 ( N = 251), we failed to replicate the results observed in Studies 1 and 2. We hope practitioners use these studies to increase awareness of how stereotype-laden labels can delegitimize women's arguments, particularly when heard via writing (e.g., via email, text, or instant messaging) rather than when observed. This work may motivate observers to challenge the use of delegitimizing labels, so that women's claims can be judged based on the soundness of their arguments, rather than stereotypes about their ability to think rationally. Additional online materials for this article are available on PWQ's website at http://journals.sagepub.com/doi/suppl/10.1177/03616843221123745
... In the current study, 97 of 110 participants were female. It is generally assumed that women are more emotionally responsive to negative stimuli than are men [55,56], and women are more likely to employ a frontal top-down network to down-regulate neg-ative emotion, whereas men may redirect attention away from stimulus by using posterior regions of the ventral attention network [57,58]. Therefore, the large number of female participants in current study may be one of the reasons for activation of the DLPFC. ...
Article
Distraction and reinterpretation have been recognized as two different tactics of emotion regulation. As a tactic of attention deployment, distraction involves shifting attention to neutral information or performing a secondary task to distract attention from emotion stimuli of the primary task. Reinterpretation, a representative tactic of cognitive change, was defined as changing the meaning of a situation to enhance or reduce its emotional impact. Thus, there are significant differences between the two processes. We wondered if the neural mechanisms underlying distraction and reinterpretation are different. Even though their neural correlates have been widely studied with functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI), few studies were conducted to compare the two tactics directly. Here we conducted an activation likelihood estimation (ALE) meta-analyses to investigate the common or different neural bases of distraction and reinterpretation. Moreover, we also used the meta-analytic connectivity modeling (MACM) to identify the emotion regulation network of distraction and reinterpretation. Overall, we found that the left dorsal lateral prefrontal cortex (DLPFC) was consistently activated during distraction and reinterpretation, whereas the left amygdala and inferior frontal gyrus/ventrolateral prefrontal cortex (VLPFC) were specifically activated during reinterpretation alone. The results indicate that the neural basis of distraction and reinterpretation are similar but not identical. The MACM results showed that distraction and reinterpretation share a common emotion regulation network, including the bilateral DLPFC, the dorsal medial prefrontal cortex, the inferior parietal lobule, the insula, the left (pre) supplementary motor area, the left middle temporal gyrus, and the right superior temporal gyrus. However, that network may subserve different functions when adopting various emotion regulation strategies. In addition, we suggest that the emotion regulation network of the left VLPFC may be a specific regulatory network for reinterpretation.
... Male stereotypical emotions include anger, pride, and con-tempt which are categorized as powerful emotions. These emotions express a certain amount of social dominance (Timmers et al. 2003, Zammuner 2000. Hence, perception of powerless and powerful stereotyping pedestalizes men for ability and demotes women for vulnerability. ...
Full-text available
Article
Sexism is a type of structural discrimination that can manifest as the subjugation of woman in familial and social roles. Gender-based violence often occurs in societies where patriarchal norms exist. Violence against women and girls (VAWG) includes physical, sexual and psychological/emotional abuse directed towards females. Emotional violence against women and girls is usually underestimated, if not overlooked. Patriarchal upbringing can predominantly result in the emotional abuse of female children. This narrative review will discuss the impact emotional abuse in women and girls mediated by patriarchal upbringing has on sexism and mental health. This paper will also explore how gendered upbringing can contribute to the normalization of VAWG and the victim-blaming of females.
Chapter
The study of emotional expressions has a long tradition in psychology. Although research in this domain has extensively studied the social context factors that influence the expresser's facial display, the perceiver was considered passive. This 2007 book focuses on more recent developments that show that the perceiver is also subject to the same social rules and norms that guide the expresser's behavior and that knowledge of relevant emotion norms can influence how emotional expressions shown by members of different groups are perceived and interpreted. Factors such as ethnic-group membership, gender and relative status all influence not only emotional expressions but also the interpretation of emotional expressions shown by members of different groups. Specifically, the research presented asks the question of whether and why the same expressions shown by men or women, members of different ethnic groups, or individuals high and low in status are interpreted differently.
Article
Introduction There is little research on how to judge a woman in a cross-cultural context. Objective The purpose of this study is to examine how women from North Africa are perceived socially, through observation of representations of this minority group in a judicial context. Method In this study, 277 French students (132 men and 145 women) read a scenario describing a North African woman who hits another woman, and who adopted one of the four acculturation strategies (assimilation, integration, separation or marginalization). They then judged the act and its perpetrator. The participants’ level of social dominance orientation (SDO) was also assessed. Results The results show that men judged the perpetrator more harshly than women and perceived as posing greater threat. The acculturation strategy adopted by the offender did not interact with the sex of the participants, but men perceived adoption of the host culture as an aggravating circumstance. Social dominance orientation moderated the effect of sex on the participants’ perception of the perpetrator, but not on their judgment of the act. Conclusion This study has important implications regarding the way relationships of domination are affected by an offender who belongs to two minority groups.
Article
Prescriptive stereotypes and dominant groups’ benefits The prescriptive component of stereotypes is defined as a set of beliefs about the characteristics group members should possess. It has mainly been studied regarding gender stereotypes. We believe that the main function of this prescriptive component is to allow dominant group members to maintain subordinate group members in an advantageous position for themselves. To illustrate our proposal, we present several theoretical and empirical papers, showing that the relative status of social groups is a determinant of which characteristics are prescribed to the members of these groups; that subordinates who fail to conform to the prescription are sanctioned; and that dominants prescribe to subordinates characteristics they see as beneficial to their own group.
Full-text available
Article
One consistent element of Western sex stereotypes is that women are emotional, whereas men are rational. This is also widely spread in psychology and defended by feminist authors who equate women's relationality with their emotionality. In this article the concept of `emotionality' is criticized and the assumption that women are generally more emotional than men is questioned. A large amount of empirical research on sex differences in emotions is reviewed, leading to the conclusion that the general idea that women are more emotional than men tells us more about Western sex stereotypes than about women's actual emotions.
Full-text available
Article
The present study was designed to test the assumption that gender differences in emotion expression are based on differences in the motives held by men and women in social interactions. Three hundred and fourteen students participated in this study by completing a questionnaire. Each questionnaire contained two vignettes that varied with respect to type of emotion (anger, disappointment, fear or sadness), sex of target, and object-target relationship. Dependent variables included measures of emotion expression and of motives for regulating one's emotions. The results support the general hypothesis that women are more concerned with relationships and less reluctant to express powerless emotions, whereas men are more motivated to stay in control and tend to express emotions that reflect their power.
Article
According to gender role theory, women's greater emotional intensity than men's stems from normative expectations for sex differences that arise as a result of men's and women's social roles. In the 1st experiment, endorsement of normative expectations for sex differences was associated with sex differences in Ss' own emotions: To the extent that they endorsed stereotypical differences between men and women, female Ss reported personally experiencing emotions of greater intensity and male Ss reported experiencing emotions of lesser intensity. The 2nd study manipulated expectations for responsiveness while Ss viewed a series of emotion-inducing slides. When instructions rendered normative expectations comparable for men and women, no sex differences were obtained in emotion self-reports. Furthermore, women evidenced more extreme electromyograph physiological responding than men, suggesting general sex differences in emotion that are not limited to self-report.
Article
Benign stereotypes of Jews are widespread, but whether they are genuinely complimentary remains unresolved. This study addresses the question using data from the 1990 General Social Survey. There are four main findings. First, benign Jewish stereotypes are far more common than corresponding blatantly anti-Semitic images. Second, there is no evidence that benign stereotypes are genuinely complimentary but strong indications that they are subtle expressions of underlying prejudice. Third, many non-Jews simultaneously both benign stereotypes and blatantly anti-Semitic stereotypes. Fourth, unlike blatant expressions of prejudice, benign stereotypes are more common among the well educated and affluent. Implications are drawn concerning the nature, extent, and future of anti-Semitic prejudice.
Article
This study examined sex differences and similarities in sex-role attitudes using reactions to males' and females' crying as the stimulus situation. 285 male and 307 female students completed questionnaires. Subjects were asked to indicate their reactions to the sight of a woman crying and to the sight of a man crying. They were also asked to indicate how they thought “people” react to the sight of a man or a woman crying. Subjects perceived “people” as holding a double standard of crying, with much greater acceptance of females' than of males' crying. The proportion of subjects of both sexes who considered crying by males acceptable was significantly greater than the proportion who felt “people” would find it acceptable. Women seemed to hold a unisex standard of crying, while male subjects endorsed a double standard.