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“Guys Can't Say That to Guys”: Four Experiments Assessing the Normative Motivation Account for Deficiencies in the Emotional Support Provided by Men

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Men are less likely than women to provide sensitive emotional support when attempting to comfort others. This paper reports four experiments that tested a normative motivation account for this sex difference, which maintains that men employ less sensitive messages because they desire to avoid acting in what they view as a feminine manner. We propose that target sex and gender schematicity influence the perceived normativeness of comforting behaviors and examined how these variables affected: participants' judgments of the normativeness of helpers' behavior (Experiment 1); helpers' goals, as reflected in judgments about the importance of different ends that might be pursued in support situations (Experiment 2); helpers' plans, as reflected in judgments about the appropriateness of different comforting messages (Experiment 3); and helpers' actions, as reflected in the verbal messages produced to comfort distressed friends (Experiment 4). These studies supported the normative motivation account, but also indicated that other factors influence comforting behavior.

Keywords: Comforting; Gender Schematicity; Interaction Goals; Message Plans; Sex Differences

Document Type: Research Article


Publication date: 2005-12-01

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