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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 29 The results of this study extend the message perception studies of Burleson and his colleagues (e.g., Burleson & Samter, 1985; Jones & Burleson, 1997; Kunkel & Burleson, 1999), and indicate that highly person-centered messages are viewed not only most favorably, but also that these messages also do the best job of relieving emotional distress in actual interactions. Further, the effectiveness of these messages was not qualified by the sex of the recipient, the sex of the helper, or the nonverbal behavior of the helper. Contrary to the different cultures hypothesis, which predicts differences in the emotional communication for men and women (Balswick, 1988; Tannen, 1990; Wood, 1993), our data indicate that both men and women are most comforted by messages that explicitly elicit, elaborate, and explore feelings, and by nonverbal conduct that is involved, attentive, and comparatively intimate. The sex of recipient and helper explained comparatively little variance in all of the dependent variables, either alone or in interaction with the message variables. The message variables, in contrast, consistently explained moderate amounts of variation in affective improvement, perceived comforting quality, and perceived helper competence. Limitations of the Study and Future Research Several limitations of the present study should be noted and addressed in future research. First, we examined the effects of comforting messages in face-to-face interactions between strangers. However, most comforting occurs between intimates. Our primary interest in the effects of specific combinations of verbal person centeredness and nonverbal immediacy required our use of confederates, and, hence, interactions between strangers. Future researchers should seek to determine the effects of messages that vary in person centeredness and immediacy in interactions between intimates.

Authors: Jones, Susanne. and Burleson, Brant.
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Effects of Helper and Recipient Sex 29
The results of this study extend the message perception studies of Burleson and his
colleagues (e.g., Burleson & Samter, 1985; Jones & Burleson, 1997; Kunkel & Burleson, 1999),
and indicate that highly person-centered messages are viewed not only most favorably, but also
that these messages also do the best job of relieving emotional distress in actual interactions.
Further, the effectiveness of these messages was not qualified by the sex of the recipient, the sex
of the helper, or the nonverbal behavior of the helper. Contrary to the different cultures
hypothesis, which predicts differences in the emotional communication for men and women
(Balswick, 1988; Tannen, 1990; Wood, 1993), our data indicate that both men and women are
most comforted by messages that explicitly elicit, elaborate, and explore feelings, and by
nonverbal conduct that is involved, attentive, and comparatively intimate. The sex of recipient
and helper explained comparatively little variance in all of the dependent variables, either alone
or in interaction with the message variables. The message variables, in contrast, consistently
explained moderate amounts of variation in affective improvement, perceived comforting
quality, and perceived helper competence.
Limitations of the Study and Future Research
Several limitations of the present study should be noted and addressed in future research.
First, we examined the effects of comforting messages in face-to-face interactions between
strangers. However, most comforting occurs between intimates. Our primary interest in the
effects of specific combinations of verbal person centeredness and nonverbal immediacy
required our use of confederates, and, hence, interactions between strangers. Future researchers
should seek to determine the effects of messages that vary in person centeredness and immediacy
in interactions between intimates.


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