When a woman in a relationship is more verbally assertive, then that couple is judged to be less likeable, says a new study.
The study, led by Dr. Jennifer Sellers, assistant professor of psychology at Green Mountain College, suggested that silence might be more golden for women.
"In couples in which the woman is more verbally assertive, and the man more submissive, the relationship tends to suffer," said Sellers.
"In this study we wanted to test the notion that this phenomenon emerges because gender role expectations lead people to expect men to verbally dominate women.
"We reasoned because men are expected to be in a position of power over women, couples in which the woman is verbally dominating the man would be rated more harshly than couples that adhere to the traditional role," she added.
In the study, 95 students (45 men and 50 women) watched four videos of married couples describing or having a conflict.
In the first video, the verbally assertive, or disinhibited, spouse discussed a conflict between him or herself and a family member.
The second video showed a conflict in which the more submissive partner, or inhibiter, chose to balance the checkbook instead of getting ready to leave and, as a result, the couple was late for an engagement.
In another video, the inhibiter discussed a conflict between him or herself and a faculty member. The inhibiter describes how the action of the faculty member made the inhibiter very angry, but the individual chose not to say anything.
In the fourth video, of the couple in a kitchen, the inhibitor becomes angry and frustrated, but instead of saying anything, he or she tosses down a dishtowel and leaves the room.
"Participants in our research were more critical when the female partner was dominating," said Sellers.
"They didn't like the couple. The man was seen as less competent. But when the roles were switched, having the exact same conversation, participants reported that they liked the couple, that they would be friends with that couple," she added.
Sellers said that the findings of the study were especially troubling as both men and women gave negative ratings to gender role violators equally.
"It's disheartening. Gender roles often influence how we see events without our realizing it. I'm sure if you'd asked the participants they'd deny that they would judge couples about this. No one wants to think they're guilty of it, but we are," she said.
"When things are going wrong, these couples may get less help from their friends or family. They lack the supportiveness of the people who would normally help them," she added.
The study is published in the journal Sex Roles.