The angry man vs. the angry woman: A double standard of influence?

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Do angry women have less influence in group settings than angry men?

In a research article titled “One Angry Woman: Anger Expression Increases Influence for Men, but Decreases Influence for Women, During Group Deliberation” (Law and Human Behavior, 2015), Jessica M. Salerno (Arizona St. U.) and Liana C. Peter-Hagene (Illinois-Chicago) offer some insights on that question. Their experiment set up a mock jury deliberation that allowed them to compare the influence of male jurors vs. the influence of female jurors. They found that when male jurors expressed anger, they gained greater influence over the group. However, when female jurors expressed anger, they lost influence over the group.

Here’s the abstract of their article (subscription needed to access the full piece):

ABSTRACT We investigated whether expressing anger increases social influence for men, but diminishes social influence for women, during group deliberation. In a deception paradigm, participants believed they were engaged in a computer-mediated mock jury deliberation about a murder case. In actuality, the interaction was scripted. The script included 5 other mock jurors who provided verdicts and comments in support of the verdicts; 4 agreed with the participant and 1 was a “holdout” dissenter. Holdouts expressed their opinions with no emotion, anger, or fear and had either male or female names. Holdouts exerted no influence on participants’ opinions when they expressed no emotion or fear. Participants’ confidence in their own verdict dropped significantly, however, after male holdouts expressed anger. Yet, anger expression undermined female holdouts: Participants became significantly more confident in their original verdicts after female holdouts expressed anger-even though they were expressing the exact same opinion and emotion as the male holdouts. Mediation analyses revealed that participants drew different inferences from male versus female anger, which created a gender gap in influence during group deliberation. The current study has implications for group decisions in general, and jury deliberations in particular, by suggesting that expressing anger might lead men to gain influence, but women to lose influence over others (even when making identical arguments). These diverging consequences might result in women potentially having less influence on societally important decisions than men, such as jury verdicts.

The authors note that their research carries implications for other group settings as well, including the workplace. For years many have suggested that a cultural double standard exists at work: The angry man is regarded as being earnest and worth taking seriously when in this state of emotion. After all, that anger must come from deep conviction, yes? But the angry woman is more likely to be regarded as being unpleasant, overly emotional, perhaps even hysteric. And maybe some are thinking, what a b***h

Last week I told students in my Employment Discrimination class that women in the professional workplace have to be much more self-aware of how their behavior is perceived than do men. It isn’t fair or right that they must carry that burden. But this little experiment helps to buttress why women often must walk a finer line in monitoring their own behavior on the job.

4 responses

  1. Oh boy this hits a nerve! I grew up with 4 brothers and have been a nurse for 30 years. I get it and it is so frustrating. Not only personally, but professionally too. And just think how this impacts assertiveness for nurses and ultimately patient safety. All the subtle messages we get to be quiet or the mixed messages we get to speak up…for patients but not ourselves.

    The good news is that the research and this post makes it visible and I thank you for that, David.

    • Beth, thanks for the comment. Yes, I think for many women, this is a “duh” finding. But as you note, it’s useful to have research studies to support the countless personal stories.

  2. Pingback: Rayman Shakuri , The angry man vs. the angry woman: A double standard of influence?

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