Angry Men Seen as Powerful, Women as Emotional, Study Finds

November 5, 2015 | Kelly Tatera

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A time-old tale of gender double standards.

A female’s claim that she probably would’ve been taken more seriously if she was a dude is often dismissed as nonsense or paranoia, but a new study finds the claim might actually have some ground. It may not come as very surprising to some, but researchers from Arizona State University and the University of Illinois found that women who express anger are dismissed as emotional, while angry men actually influence others to change their opinions.

The researchers asked over 210 participants to take part in a mock-jury simulation through an instant messenger program on a computer. The mock-jury discussion would go as follows: participants were told they’d be randomly assigned to virtual groups of six-person “juries” with other study participants, then they’d be presented with evidence from a real-life murder trial and “deliberate with their group until they reached a unanimous verdict.”

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Little did the participants know, however, the jury chat room was completely scripted based on each participant’s initial verdict for the case. Four of the other “jurors” would agree with the participant’s verdict, and one “holdout juror” — either Jason or Alicia — would strongly disagree. To clearly express anger, “Jason” or “Alicia” would use phrases like “seriously, this just makes me angry” and “OK, this is getting really frustrating,” or type with words in all capital letters.

Throughout the course of the “jury” discussion, one of the other jurors would end up changing their own position to match Jason or Alicia’s. Then, participants would fill out a report on their final verdicts after the discussion was over. They would discuss how confident they felt about their decision, as well as how they perceived their co-jurors. For instance, were they emotional? Likable? Influential? Rational? Persuasive?

Unsurprisingly, the findings revealed that Alicia’s anger worked against her while Jason’s anger influenced participants to doubt their own opinions — even though they held the majority opinion. On the contrary, Alicia’s anger was written off as “emotional,” and participants actually became more confident in their opposing opinions.

This dynamic goes to show that, despite all of the progress that has been made toward women’s rights, gender inequality and double standards still exist today — whether it be recognized or subconscious. The perception bias toward women affects their ability to advance to the highest career positions, as well as earn the same salaries as male co-workers.

Jennifer Lawrence recently took it upon herself to address the issue, writing a passionate essay on Hollywood’s gender pay gap. “I don’t think I’m the only woman with this issue,” she wrote. “Could there still be a lingering habit of trying to express our opinions in a certain way that doesn’t ‘offend’ or ‘scare’ men?” She eloquently addresses the issue that women are supposed to express themselves politely and nicely, but once their tones reveal any form of anger or exasperation, they’re told to calm down. “I’m over trying to find the ‘adorable’ way to state my opinion,” she declares.

This study highlights the fact that there’s still a long road ahead in the fight for gender equality. That’s not to downplay the immense progress that has already been made, but in a society that’s advanced so far as to have artificially intelligent cars, potential invisibility cloaks, and smart contact lenses — women’s equality shouldn’t be rocket science.

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