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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 9 Research suggests that women are more nonverbally immediate than men, are stereotyped as more immediate than men, and benefit more from (or are more responsive to) nonverbal immediacy behaviors than men (Fabes & Martin, 1991; J. T. Johnson & Shulman, 1988; Menzel & Carrell, 1999). Consequently, women may be more affected than men by high levels of immediacy during the course of comforting interactions. In addition, nonverbally immediate behaviors, particularly in the context of comforting interactions, may be viewed as particularly feminine, and may thus be more efficacious when used by a female helper. Finally, it is possible that both men and women will be more comfortable with – and comforted by – highly immediate female helpers because highly immediate male helpers may be viewed as making sexual advances. Focus of the Present Study: Assessing the Effects of Different Comforting Messages on Men and Women in Face-to-Face Supportive Interactions Given the limitations of previous research, the purpose of the present study was to determine whether men and women are best comforted by the same types of messages in the context of face-to-face supportive interactions. In the present study we examined whether the actual effectiveness of comforting messages that exhibited varying degrees verbal person centeredness and nonverbal immediacy differ due to the sex of the helper, the sex of the recipient, or the interaction between helper and recipient sex. The present study was built upon the recent work of Jones and Guerrero (2001), who compared the verbal and nonverbal qualities of helpers’ comforting messages on recipients’ evaluations of those messages. These researchers had participants identify and then disclose an upsetting event to a confederate who responded with comforting messages that exhibited combinations of low, moderate, or high levels of person centeredness and low, moderate, or high levels of nonverbal immediacy. Analyses detected

Authors: Jones, Susanne. and Burleson, Brant.
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Effects of Helper and Recipient Sex 9
Research suggests that women are more nonverbally immediate than men, are
stereotyped as more immediate than men, and benefit more from (or are more responsive to)
nonverbal immediacy behaviors than men (Fabes & Martin, 1991; J. T. Johnson & Shulman,
1988; Menzel & Carrell, 1999). Consequently, women may be more affected than men by high
levels of immediacy during the course of comforting interactions. In addition, nonverbally
immediate behaviors, particularly in the context of comforting interactions, may be viewed as
particularly feminine, and may thus be more efficacious when used by a female helper. Finally,
it is possible that both men and women will be more comfortable with – and comforted by –
highly immediate female helpers because highly immediate male helpers may be viewed as
making sexual advances.
Focus of the Present Study: Assessing the Effects of Different Comforting Messages on Men and
Women in Face-to-Face Supportive Interactions
Given the limitations of previous research, the purpose of the present study was to
determine whether men and women are best comforted by the same types of messages in the
context of face-to-face supportive interactions. In the present study we examined whether the
actual effectiveness of comforting messages that exhibited varying degrees verbal person
centeredness and nonverbal immediacy differ due to the sex of the helper, the sex of the
recipient, or the interaction between helper and recipient sex. The present study was built upon
the recent work of Jones and Guerrero (2001), who compared the verbal and nonverbal qualities
of helpers’ comforting messages on recipients’ evaluations of those messages. These researchers
had participants identify and then disclose an upsetting event to a confederate who responded
with comforting messages that exhibited combinations of low, moderate, or high levels of person
centeredness and low, moderate, or high levels of nonverbal immediacy. Analyses detected


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