A new study from UCLA-University of Glasgow has found how we have stereotyped even the manner in which men and women express negative emotions - while men express theirs in the form of anger, women are expected to be sad - but never the other way round.
Researchers created videotapes of men and women throwing baseballs in such a manner as to convey a range of emotions and then and asked volunteers to make judgments about the throwers' emotions and gender.
Advertisement"Even when observers received minimal information, they were able to discern the thrower's emotion," said Kerri Johnson.
"But when it comes to deciding whether the actors were male or female, judgments tended to be less accurate, and that may be because perceptions are coloured by longstanding stereotypes about masculine and feminine behaviour."
Even though observers were shown an equal number of male and female actors displaying each emotion, they judged "sad" throws to be female about 60 percent of the time and "angry" throws to be male more than 70 percent of the time.
"It's OK - even expected - for men to express anger. But when women have a negative emotion, they're expected to express their displeasure with sadness," said Johnson.
"Similarly, women are allowed to cry, whereas men face all kinds of stigma if they do so. Here, we found that these stereotypes impact very basic judgments of others as well, such as whether a person is a man or woman."
Scholars have long been interested in the possibility that gender stereotypes affect our judgments of others.
One of the first demonstrations of this sort found that when a crying baby was labelled as a boy, listeners judged the cries to stem from anger; yet when the crying baby was labelled a girl, listeners judged the cries to stem from sadness.
"We found that prior beliefs and stereotypes can lead to systematic errors in the perception of body motions, which otherwise tend to be fairly accurate," Johnson said.
The study appears in the current issue of Cognition.
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