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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 8 (e.g., M. Burgoon, Birk, & Hall, 1991; A. E. Lindsey, 1996; see review by A. Elizabeth Lindsey & Zakahi, 1998). Therefore, highly person-centered comforting messages used by male helpers may be less effective at reducing distress than the same message used by female helpers. In addition, male helpers who use highly person-centered messages may be evaluated less positively than female helpers who use such strategies. However, such effects may be present only in actual face-to-face interaction, and may not exist in research that relies on hypothetical situations, because gender-based expectations for behavior are activated primarily by face-to- face social interactions where gender is particularly salient (Deaux & Major, 1987; also see A. Elizabeth Lindsey & Zakahi, 1998). Thus, evaluations of how the sex of helpers and recipients moderates the effectiveness of person-centered comforting messages need to be carried out with regard to actual interactions in which gender-based schemata are relevant and likely to be activated. A third limitation of the message perception research reported by Burleson and his colleagues is that the use of written messages in these studies has precluded the consideration of nonverbal behaviors in the emotional support process. However, nonverbal behaviors are an important aspect of sensitive emotional support (e.g., Bullis & Horn, 1995; Dolin & Booth- Butterfield, 1993). In particular, nonverbal immediacy behaviors (e.g., direct eye contact, forward body lean, smiling, head nods, close proximity) signal social interest and involvement, convey positive affect, express warmth and acceptance, and may stimulate enjoyable physiological arousal and positive emotional changes (Andersen, 1985). Thus, a high degree of nonverbal immediacy by a helper would seem likely to improve the affect of a distressed other (Jones & Guerrero, 2001; Winstead, Derlega, Lewis, Sanchez-Hucles, & Clarke, 1992).

Authors: Jones, Susanne. and Burleson, Brant.
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Effects of Helper and Recipient Sex 8
(e.g., M. Burgoon, Birk, & Hall, 1991; A. E. Lindsey, 1996; see review by A. Elizabeth Lindsey
& Zakahi, 1998). Therefore, highly person-centered comforting messages used by male helpers
may be less effective at reducing distress than the same message used by female helpers. In
addition, male helpers who use highly person-centered messages may be evaluated less
positively than female helpers who use such strategies. However, such effects may be present
only in actual face-to-face interaction, and may not exist in research that relies on hypothetical
situations, because gender-based expectations for behavior are activated primarily by face-to-
face social interactions where gender is particularly salient (Deaux & Major, 1987; also see A.
Elizabeth Lindsey & Zakahi, 1998). Thus, evaluations of how the sex of helpers and recipients
moderates the effectiveness of person-centered comforting messages need to be carried out with
regard to actual interactions in which gender-based schemata are relevant and likely to be
activated.
A third limitation of the message perception research reported by Burleson and his
colleagues is that the use of written messages in these studies has precluded the consideration of
nonverbal behaviors in the emotional support process. However, nonverbal behaviors are an
important aspect of sensitive emotional support (e.g., Bullis & Horn, 1995; Dolin & Booth-
Butterfield, 1993). In particular, nonverbal immediacy behaviors (e.g., direct eye contact,
forward body lean, smiling, head nods, close proximity) signal social interest and involvement,
convey positive affect, express warmth and acceptance, and may stimulate enjoyable
physiological arousal and positive emotional changes (Andersen, 1985). Thus, a high degree of
nonverbal immediacy by a helper would seem likely to improve the affect of a distressed other
(Jones & Guerrero, 2001; Winstead, Derlega, Lewis, Sanchez-Hucles, & Clarke, 1992).


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