Public release date: 2-Apr-2008
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Contact: Bill Hathaway
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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)