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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 27 who used moderately person-centered messages as behaving in the most normative (or expected) fashion. These results make sense because participants in the current study disclosed their emotionally upsetting situation to a stranger. In situations where they have little or no information about each other, people tend to rely on normative behavioral scripts that reflect polite behavior (Brown & Levinson, 1987; J. K. Burgoon, Walther, & Baesler, 1992). The behavioral scripts that shape initial interactions typically appear to reflect moderate levels of verbal person centeredness (e.g., “I’m sorry that you’ve had such a rough day”). Thus, although moderately person-centered messages were the most expected, it is important to underscore that highly person-centered messages were the most effective. Recipient sex also shaped competence evaluations such that male recipients viewed helpers as more sensitive and normative in their conduct than did female recipients. This might suggest that men view helpers as generally more sensitive, regardless of the type of support they receive, whereas women may be more critical in their evaluations of comforting behavior, perhaps because of their greater skill in the provision of emotional support (Kunkel & Burleson, 1998; Samter, 2002). It is interesting that our findings revealed interactions between recipient sex and person centeredness for both sensitivity and normativeness. Specifically, women viewed helpers as less competent (less sensitive and less normative) than men did when helpers used messages low in verbal person centeredness. This result is consistent with research that suggests that women evaluate low-person-centered messages more negatively than do men (Jones & Burleson, 1997; Kunkel & Burleson, 1999), and it suggests that women may be more “put off “ than men by such low quality behaviors. Further, because men are more likely than women to use messages low in person centeredness when comforting others (see Samter, 2002), it is possible that men are more

Authors: Jones, Susanne. and Burleson, Brant.
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Effects of Helper and Recipient Sex 27
who used moderately person-centered messages as behaving in the most normative (or expected)
fashion. These results make sense because participants in the current study disclosed their
emotionally upsetting situation to a stranger. In situations where they have little or no
information about each other, people tend to rely on normative behavioral scripts that reflect
polite behavior (Brown & Levinson, 1987; J. K. Burgoon, Walther, & Baesler, 1992). The
behavioral scripts that shape initial interactions typically appear to reflect moderate levels of
verbal person centeredness (e.g., “I’m sorry that you’ve had such a rough day”). Thus, although
moderately person-centered messages were the most expected, it is important to underscore that
highly person-centered messages were the most effective.
Recipient sex also shaped competence evaluations such that male recipients viewed
helpers as more sensitive and normative in their conduct than did female recipients. This might
suggest that men view helpers as generally more sensitive, regardless of the type of support they
receive, whereas women may be more critical in their evaluations of comforting behavior,
perhaps because of their greater skill in the provision of emotional support (Kunkel & Burleson,
1998; Samter, 2002).
It is interesting that our findings revealed interactions between recipient sex and person
centeredness for both sensitivity and normativeness. Specifically, women viewed helpers as less
competent (less sensitive and less normative) than men did when helpers used messages low in
verbal person centeredness. This result is consistent with research that suggests that women
evaluate low-person-centered messages more negatively than do men (Jones & Burleson, 1997;
Kunkel & Burleson, 1999), and it suggests that women may be more “put off “ than men by such
low quality behaviors. Further, because men are more likely than women to use messages low in
person centeredness when comforting others (see Samter, 2002), it is possible that men are more


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