DELEGITIMIZATION AND WOMEN'S PERCEIVED EMOTIONALITY: "DON'T BE SO EMOTIONAL!"

Open Access
Author:
Warner, Leah Robertson
Graduate Program:
Psychology
Degree:
Doctor of Philosophy
Document Type:
Dissertation
Date of Defense:
April 13, 2007
Committee Members:
  • Stephanie A Shields, Committee Chair
  • Theresa K Vescio, Committee Member
  • Karen Gasper, Committee Member
  • Nancy A Tuana, Committee Member
Keywords:
  • emotional
  • expression
  • gender
  • legitimacy
  • emotion
  • stereotypes
Abstract:
When a woman engages in an argument a common reaction is, “she shouldn’t have been so emotional.” In a series of two studies I look at the consequences that this reaction has on other individuals’ perceptions of women and on women who are themselves targets of being called emotional. In Study 1 I test the hypothesis that calling a person emotional is more delegitimizing than identifying that person’s argument as wrong, and that women will be more delegitimized than men when this occurs. Delegitimization is defined as invalidating a claim in the eyes of an actual or implied reference group (e.g., Zelditch, 2000). The inability to properly control emotions, which is believed to invalidate a claim, is one of the most salient stereotypes of women in the West, and thus calling a woman emotional will be more believable than calling a man emotional. Participants (N=127) evaluated vignettes of two characters in which one (the observer) either calls the other (the target) emotional or disagrees with the target. Results revealed that when the observer disagreed with the target, male and female targets’ arguments were perceived similarly. However, when observers called targets emotional, male targets’ arguments were seen as more legitimate than female targets’. In Study 2 I focused specifically on the consequences that being called emotional has on women targets, and tested the hypothesis that, due to concerns about being delegitimized, women would respond to being called emotional by being more preoccupied with their emotions than men. Results are discussed in terms of the negative consequences associated with preoccupation, such as emotion suppression.