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Effects of Helper and Recipient Sex on the Experience and Outcomes of Comforting Messages: An Experimental Investigation
Unformatted Document Text:  Effects of Helper and Recipient Sex 25 immediate messages as exhibiting the highest comforting quality, and with one minor exception, both men and women viewed helpers using these messages as the most competent. Emotional Improvement as a Function of Comforting Messages Improvement in emotional state was viewed as a critical outcome for comforting messages. Consistent with research that used the message perception paradigm (e. g., Burleson & Samter, 1985; Kunkel & Burleson, 1999) recipients in the current study were best comforted by messages that exhibit high levels of verbal person centeredness and nonverbal immediacy. Contrary to predictions of the “different cultures” viewpoint, which maintains that men and women prefer quite different approaches to the management of distressed emotions (Tannen, 1990; Wood, 1993), neither the sex of the helper nor the sex of the recipient moderated the effects of verbal person centeredness and nonverbal immediacy. Clearly, and in line with the results of several studies that used the message perception paradigm (e.g., Burleson & Samter, 1985; Jones & Burleson, 1997; Kunkel & Burleson, 1999; Samter et al., 1987), both men and women reported feeling better when exposed to highly person-centered comforting messages. The effect size for the person-centered quality of messages on affective improvement was rather small, and it explained only about 3% of the variance. However, it is important to keep in mind that the comforting interactions in the current study occurred between strangers and typically lasted only about 5 minutes. Given these limitations, the fact that highly person- centered messages were able to elicit small but significantly better emotional states in recipients than less person-centered messages must be regarded as impressive. In real-life situations, emotional support is typically provided by intimates and friends over an extended period of time. Our findings suggest that the small effects observed in this study for message person centeredness on emotional improvement might be indicative of much stronger effect sizes for the

Authors: Jones, Susanne. and Burleson, Brant.
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Effects of Helper and Recipient Sex 25
immediate messages as exhibiting the highest comforting quality, and with one minor exception,
both men and women viewed helpers using these messages as the most competent.
Emotional Improvement as a Function of Comforting Messages
Improvement in emotional state was viewed as a critical outcome for comforting
messages. Consistent with research that used the message perception paradigm (e. g., Burleson &
Samter, 1985; Kunkel & Burleson, 1999) recipients in the current study were best comforted by
messages that exhibit high levels of verbal person centeredness and nonverbal immediacy.
Contrary to predictions of the “different cultures” viewpoint, which maintains that men and
women prefer quite different approaches to the management of distressed emotions (Tannen,
1990; Wood, 1993), neither the sex of the helper nor the sex of the recipient moderated the
effects of verbal person centeredness and nonverbal immediacy. Clearly, and in line with the
results of several studies that used the message perception paradigm (e.g., Burleson & Samter,
1985; Jones & Burleson, 1997; Kunkel & Burleson, 1999; Samter et al., 1987), both men and
women reported feeling better when exposed to highly person-centered comforting messages.
The effect size for the person-centered quality of messages on affective improvement was
rather small, and it explained only about 3% of the variance. However, it is important to keep in
mind that the comforting interactions in the current study occurred between strangers and
typically lasted only about 5 minutes. Given these limitations, the fact that highly person-
centered messages were able to elicit small but significantly better emotional states in recipients
than less person-centered messages must be regarded as impressive. In real-life situations,
emotional support is typically provided by intimates and friends over an extended period of time.
Our findings suggest that the small effects observed in this study for message person
centeredness on emotional improvement might be indicative of much stronger effect sizes for the


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