Public release date: 2-Apr-2008
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Contact: Bill Hathaway
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Yale University

Studies' message to women: Keep your cool

New Haven, Conn.-Whether you are running for president or looking for 
a clerical job, you cannot afford to get angry if you are a woman, 
Yale University psychologist Victoria Brescoll has found.

Brescoll and Eric Uhlmann at Northwestern University recently 
completed three separate studies to explore a phenomenon that may be 
all-too-familiar to women like New York Senator Hillary Clinton: 
People accept and even reward men who get angry but view women who 
lose their temper as less competent

The studies, published in the March issue of Psychological Science, 
provide women with recommendations for navigating emotional hazards 
of the workplace. Brescoll says it pays to stay emotionally neutral 
and, if you can't, at least explain what ticked you off in the first 

Clinton's presidential campaign has put a spotlight on the question 
of whether anger hurts a female candidate. The answer, according to 
the studies, appears to be an unequivocal yes - unless the anger 
deals with treatment of a family member.

"An angry woman loses status, no matter what her position,'' said 
Brescoll, who worked in Clinton's office as a Congressional Fellow in 
2004 while she was preparing her doctoral thesis on gender bias. She 
noticed over the years that women pay a clear price for showing anger 
and men don't.

In all studies, both men and women were shown videos of actors 
portraying men and women who were ostensibly applying for a job. The 
participants in the studies were then asked to rate applicants on how 
much responsibility they should be given, their perceived competence, 
whether they should be hired, and how much they should get paid.

Both men and women in the reached the same conclusions: Angry men 
deserved more status, a higher salary, and were expected to be better 
at the job than angry women.

When those actor/applicants expressed sadness, however, the bias was 
less evident, and women applicants were ranked equally to men in 
status and competence, but not in salary.

Brescoll and her colleague then compared angry job applicants to ones 
who did not display any emotion. And this time the researchers showed 
study participants videos of both men and women applying for 
lower-status jobs. The findings were duplicated: Angry men were 
valued more highly than angry women no matter what level position 
they were applying for. However, the disparities disappeared when men 
and women who were emotionally neutral were ranked.

A final study showed another way bias against female anger could be 
mitigated. When women actors explained why they were angry, observers 
tended to cut them more slack. However, Brescoll noted a final gender 
difference: Men could actually be hurt when they explained why they 
were angry - perhaps, says the Yale psychologist, because observers 
tend to see this as a sign of weakness.


Psychological Science 19: 268-275 (March 2008)