2015-02851-006.pdf - Chapter 6 Gender and Nonverbal...

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139 APA Handbook of Nonverbal Communication , D. Matsumoto, H. C. Hwang, and M. G. Frank (Editors-in-Chief) Copyright © 2016 by the American Psychological Association. All rights reserved. C H A P T E R 6 GENDER AND NONVERBAL BEHAVIOR Marianne LaFrance and Andrea C. Vial It is widely believed that women and men are fun- damentally different from each other. Indeed, the belief that males and females possess different traits, abilities, and inclinations pervades all age groups, all time periods, and all cultures (Kite, Deaux, & Haines, 2008). Such beliefs, better described as ste- reotypes, have also been found to be highly resistant to change (Dodge, Gilroy, & Fenzel, 1995; Heilman, 2001). Two dimensions, communality and agency, capture a multitude of perceived differences (Bakan, 1966; Kite et al., 2008). Women are consistently characterized as having a consistent predisposition to be communal—to care for and attend to the well- being of others. The typical woman is thought to be kind, caring, sensitive, empathic, and emotional. However, men are believed to be primarily agentic and instrumental. The characteristic male is felt to be independent, confident, decisive, aggressive, and strong (Kite et al., 2008). It is not surprising then that people believe that women and men show distinctive patterns of non- verbal behavior. For example, Briton and Hall (1995) found that people think that women are more non- verbally expressive and responsive than are men. Women are also thought to be better at sending and deciphering nonverbal messages. In contrast, males are believed to be louder and more interruptive and to show more restless body movements and dysflu- ent vocal behaviors, such as inserting filled and unfilled pauses while speaking. The issue here, as is the case with stereotypes more generally, has to do with the validity or accuracy of such beliefs. This chapter addresses just that question and two related ones—namely, what gender dimension best describes differences that are examined, and if sex differences are found, to what are they to be attributed? There is more to gender beliefs than simple assumptions such as the idea that women express more positive emotion than men (Shields, 1987). Not only are men and women believed to have different repertoires of nonverbal behavior, some nonverbal behaviors are understood a priori to be feminine or masculine . Therefore, crying—which is believed to be something that women do more than men (Vingerhoets & Scheirs, 2000)—denotes femininity in the crier (sometimes called effeminacy if the crier happens to be male). This pregendering of nonverbal behavior reinforces ideas about who (men or women) should exhibit which behaviors, and it impinges on what behaviors men and women choose to display when motivated to avoid being perceived as gender deviant. In fact, engaging in the appropriate nonverbal gender repertoire (and avoid- ing cross-gender behavior) is part of what some scholars refer to as “doing gender” well (West & Zimmerman, 1987).
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