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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 28 accustomed to such messages (as both recipients and producers), and are thus less put off by them. Conclusions Men and women appear to share some very important similarities in terms of their emotional make-up. The fact that men and women were both best comforted by messages that exhibit high levels of verbal person centeredness and nonverbal immediacy suggests that both sexes most effectively work through emotional distress by engaging in sense making processes (Burleson & Goldsmith, 1998; L. F. Clark, 1993). Thus, contrary to the common belief that men best handle their problems—emotional or otherwise—through instrumental or problem-focused means, the results of the present study suggest that men benefit from the same kinds of comforting messages as women do when coping with distressing incidents. A particularly noteworthy finding of the present study was a lack of effects for helper sex. This is interesting in light of traditional gender stereotypes that sensitive emotional support is best provided by female helpers (Eagly, 1987; Wood, 1994). Stereotypes may be of limited importance when engaging in face-to-face interaction with someone about a significant matter. Indeed, stereotypes may exert influence with respect to perceptions associated with certain social groups but may not necessarily affect behavior and consequently interaction. For example, cooking and food preparation are highly gendered activities in our culture, largely associated with women. This stereotype may influence perceptions or judgments about which sex is likely to produce the best cooks. But, when sampling foods, the gender of the cook pales in comparison to the quality of the food. Perhaps it is the same with emotional support – when a person is hurting, the gender of the helper may pale in comparison to the quality of the comforting message actually provided.

Authors: Jones, Susanne. and Burleson, Brant.
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Effects of Helper and Recipient Sex 28
accustomed to such messages (as both recipients and producers), and are thus less put off by
them.
Conclusions
Men and women appear to share some very important similarities in terms of their
emotional make-up. The fact that men and women were both best comforted by messages that
exhibit high levels of verbal person centeredness and nonverbal immediacy suggests that both
sexes most effectively work through emotional distress by engaging in sense making processes
(Burleson & Goldsmith, 1998; L. F. Clark, 1993). Thus, contrary to the common belief that men
best handle their problems—emotional or otherwise—through instrumental or problem-focused
means, the results of the present study suggest that men benefit from the same kinds of
comforting messages as women do when coping with distressing incidents.
A particularly noteworthy finding of the present study was a lack of effects for helper
sex. This is interesting in light of traditional gender stereotypes that sensitive emotional support
is best provided by female helpers (Eagly, 1987; Wood, 1994). Stereotypes may be of limited
importance when engaging in face-to-face interaction with someone about a significant matter.
Indeed, stereotypes may exert influence with respect to perceptions associated with certain social
groups but may not necessarily affect behavior and consequently interaction. For example,
cooking and food preparation are highly gendered activities in our culture, largely associated
with women. This stereotype may influence perceptions or judgments about which sex is likely
to produce the best cooks. But, when sampling foods, the gender of the cook pales in
comparison to the quality of the food. Perhaps it is the same with emotional support – when a
person is hurting, the gender of the helper may pale in comparison to the quality of the
comforting message actually provided.


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