Body Language: Anger Perceived as Masculine
Body language researchers say anger is perceived as a masculine trait, while body language that conveys sadness is seen as feminine.
Researchers videotaped actors, both male and female, throwing baseballs in such a manner as to convey a range of emotions. Then, using technology that disguised the actors' sex, they presented the videos to observers and asked them to make judgments about the throwers' emotions and gender.
"Even when observers received minimal information, they were able to discern the thrower's emotion," said Kerri Johnson, the study's lead author and an assistant professor of communication studies and psychology at UCLA.
"The findings fit with a growing body of work that shows some 'snap' judgments are highly accurate. But when it comes to deciding whether the actors were male or female, judgments tended to be less accurate, and that may be because perceptions are colored by longstanding stereotypes about masculine and feminine behavior."
Observers were shown an equal number of male and female actors displaying each emotion. However, they judged "sad" throws to be female about 60 percent of the time and "angry" throws to be male more than 70 percent of the time in the study.
"It's OK -- even expected -- for men to express anger," Johnson said. "But when women have a negative emotion, they're expected to express their displeasure with sadness. Similarly, women are allowed to cry, whereas men face all kinds of stigma if they do so. Here, we found that these stereotypes impact very basic judgments of others as well, such as whether a person is a man or woman."