When women display this trait they are taken less seriously, yet for men it’s the opposite

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Amy Swales

Have you ever had a conversation with someone and become passionate, worked up, angry? Probably, you're a person, not a robot (we assume). Thing is, if you're a woman then that last feeling is sadly doing you no favours, according to a new study.

Published in the journal Law and Human Behavior, researchers Jessica Salerno and Liana Peter-Hagane investigated “whether expressing anger increases social influence for men, but diminishes social influence for women, during group deliberation”.

And guess what? The study reflected what many have suspected – or outright known through experience – for a long time: that expressing anger as a woman makes others take their opinion less seriously. Doing the same as a man, however, convinces others that same opinion is worth listening to.


We're just so gosh darn emotional

As Pacific Standard reports, the study involved 210 undergraduates and gathered the details of a past, real-life murder trial. Each student had the same case details to examine, ambiguous enough that both guilty and not guilty verdicts were plausible. They were asked to record whether they believed the defendant was guilty or not guilty before having a conversation with other students in an online chat room.

However, the discussions were with fictional people, all of whom would agree with the participant's opinion on the verdict, except for one, who would hold an opposing view. In some chat rooms, the opposing view would be presented neutrally, in some angrily, and in others, fearfully.

It was found that when the dissenting opinion was expressed angrily by a user with a male name, the participant would start “doubting their own opinion significantly” – a male persona was able to influence them. When a 'woman' expressed the same argument, with the same anger, not only did it not have the participant doubting, it actually served to strengthen their original opinion. The results were the same with participants of both sexes.


Only one of you is coming off well in this scenario

The paper concludes: “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.”

Just as actress Jennifer Lawrence worried that fighting for a wage on par with that of her male colleagues would have her labelled difficult to work with, or a “spoiled brat” (as the leaked Sony emails revealed Angelina Jolie was dubbed), so too do many women in everyday situations feel the same sense of unfairness at potentially being thought of as emotional and hysterical for being passionate or angry. 

Funnily enough, being taken less seriously makes one feel quite angry. Still, as Lawrence said, “I'm over trying to find the ‘adorable’ way to state my opinion and still be likable”.

Images: Rex Features, Thinkstock

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Amy Swales

Amy Swales is a freelance writer who likes to eat, drink and talk about her dog. She will continue to plunder her own life and the lives of her loved ones for material in the name of comedy, catharsis and getting pictures of her dog on the internet.

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