Sex Differences in Intensity of Emotional Experience: A Social Role Interpretation

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Abstract

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.

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