Perceived Morality Determines the Acceptability of Stereotypic Feminine Emotional Displays in Men

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We hypothesized that men may, without costs to perceived masculinity, exhibit stereotypically feminine displays of emotion—cry or express anxiety—when those emotional displays imply men’s morally praiseworthy intentions, feelings, or behavior. To test this hypothesis, across three experiments we created conditions in which we varied men’s crying response (Experiments 1 and 2), or anxious response (Experiment 3), and men’s perceived moral praiseworthiness—through men’s expression of moral or nonmoral anger. Findings indicated that crying or expressing anxiety as a result of moral (vs. nonmoral) anger reduced the negative effects that stereotypically feminine displays of emotion have on an actor’s perceived masculinity and competence. Compared with those expressing nonmoral anger, men who cried from moral anger were also seen as warmer and more communal. We discuss the implications of these findings for the study of men and masculinity.

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