Studies' message to women: Keep your cool

Apr 02, 2008

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 place.

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.

Source: Yale University

Explore further: In funk music, rhythmic complexity influences dancing desire

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Women do not apply to 'male-sounding' job postings

Apr 03, 2014

Even the wording of an employment ad can be a crucial factor whether the job goes to a woman or a man—as women tend not to apply in case of doubt. They feel less inclined to respond to ads containing frequently ...

Anthropologists study how, why we read into potential peril

Jan 06, 2014

They went boating alone without life vests and gave no thought to shimmying up very tall coconut trees. And although they were only figments of a writer's imagination, the fictional adventurers helped provide new insight ...

In UK threat to Ecuador, experts see mistake

Aug 17, 2012

(AP) — It was a warning meant to remind Ecuador that Britain's patience has limits. But as the stalemate over Julian Assange settled in Friday, it appeared London's veiled threat that it could storm ...

Recommended for you

Screenagers face troubling addictions from an early age

10 hours ago

In 1997, Douglas Rushkoff boldly predicted the emergence a new caste of tech-literate adolescents. He argued that the children of his day would soon blossom into "screenagers", endowed with effortless advantages over their parents, ...

Better memory at ideal temperature

11 hours ago

People's working memory functions better if they are working in an ambient temperature where they feel most comfortable. That is what Leiden psychologists Lorenza Colzato and Roberta Sellaro conclude after having conducted ...

User comments : 0

More news stories

Down's chromosome cause genome-wide disruption

The extra copy of Chromosome 21 that causes Down's syndrome throws a spanner into the workings of all the other chromosomes as well, said a study published Wednesday that surprised its authors.

How kids' brain structures grow as memory develops

Our ability to store memories improves during childhood, associated with structural changes in the hippocampus and its connections with prefrontal and parietal cortices. New research from UC Davis is exploring ...

Ebola virus in Africa outbreak is a new strain

The Ebola virus that has killed scores of people in Guinea this year is a new strain—evidence that the disease did not spread there from outbreaks in some other African nations, scientists report.