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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 4 Similarities and Differences in Men’s and Women’s Preferences for Emotional Support Strategies There has been considerable speculation that men and women are best comforted by different types of emotional support strategies. In particular, proponents of the “gender-as- culture,” “separate cultures,” or “different cultures” view (e.g., F. L. Johnson, 1989; Kyratzis & Guo, 1996; Tannen, 1990; Wood, 1993) maintain that men and women have distinct orientations toward communication and emotion, and consequently, different orientations toward comforting messages. In brief, the different cultures view holds that women are more emotional and expressive, whereas men are more instrumental and inexpressive (Balswick, 1988). Thus, on average, women should be best comforted by messages that explicitly elaborate and explore a distressed person's feelings (Tannen, 1990; Wood, 1997). In contrast, men are predicted to be best comforted by messages that avoid discussion of feelings and focus on either fixing the problematic situation or redirecting attention away from that situation. Despite its popularity and widespread influence in both scholarly and popular literature, the different cultures perspective has attracted increasing criticism because it frequently overstates differences between men and women and ignores similarities (Thorne, 1993; Wood & Dindia, 1998). Moreover, numerous deficiencies have been documented in the evidence for claims of broad-scale gender differences in communication (e.g., Aries, 1996; Canary & Hause, 1993), especially supportive communication (e.g., Goldsmith & Fulfs, 1999). Indeed, increasing evidence indicates that men and women have very similar ideas about what counts as sensitive emotional support, evaluate alternative support messages quite similarly, and are most comforted by the same kinds of messages (Kunkel, 2002; Kunkel & Burleson, 1998).

Authors: Jones, Susanne. and Burleson, Brant.
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Effects of Helper and Recipient Sex 4
Similarities and Differences in Men’s and Women’s Preferences for Emotional Support
Strategies
There has been considerable speculation that men and women are best comforted by
different types of emotional support strategies. In particular, proponents of the “gender-as-
culture,” “separate cultures,” or “different cultures” view (e.g., F. L. Johnson, 1989; Kyratzis &
Guo, 1996; Tannen, 1990; Wood, 1993) maintain that men and women have distinct orientations
toward communication and emotion, and consequently, different orientations toward comforting
messages. In brief, the different cultures view holds that women are more emotional and
expressive, whereas men are more instrumental and inexpressive (Balswick, 1988). Thus, on
average, women should be best comforted by messages that explicitly elaborate and explore a
distressed person's feelings (Tannen, 1990; Wood, 1997). In contrast, men are predicted to be
best comforted by messages that avoid discussion of feelings and focus on either fixing the
problematic situation or redirecting attention away from that situation.
Despite its popularity and widespread influence in both scholarly and popular literature,
the different cultures perspective has attracted increasing criticism because it frequently
overstates differences between men and women and ignores similarities (Thorne, 1993; Wood &
Dindia, 1998). Moreover, numerous deficiencies have been documented in the evidence for
claims of broad-scale gender differences in communication (e.g., Aries, 1996; Canary & Hause,
1993), especially supportive communication (e.g., Goldsmith & Fulfs, 1999). Indeed, increasing
evidence indicates that men and women have very similar ideas about what counts as sensitive
emotional support, evaluate alternative support messages quite similarly, and are most comforted
by the same kinds of messages (Kunkel, 2002; Kunkel & Burleson, 1998).


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