We all know the trope of the angry woman. Kali the raging goddess is loved and respected, Draupadi is a heroine. But when it comes to the present day situation, women who show anger aren’t taken seriously, and are often dismissed as being overly emotional.
A study conducted by researchers from Arizona State University and the University of Illinois at Chicago shows just that. The study found that women are taken less seriously when they express anger in a group setting. Whereas men can use anger to influence a group, women who use anger often lose the group’s confidence.
The study got 210 students to take part in a mock-jury simulation. Students were assigned to virtual groups of 6-person juries. They were given evidence for a real-life murder trial and were asked to talk about the situation with their group, till the group came to a unanimous verdict.
But the researchers asked at least one of the people in the chat to be a dissenter, i.e someone whose opinion differed from the rest. For some, this dissenter had a male name, and for others the dissenter had a female name.
In some cases, the dissenter expressed anger with his or her opinion, and in other cases the dissenter did not express any emotion.
What was fascinating was that when the male participant argued for his dissenting opinion, with anger, the other volunteers started losing confidence in their own opinions. But when the female dissenter expressed her opinion, other volunteers started believing more in their own opposing opinion.
The study shows how when men show anger, they often get respect, but when women do it, they lose respect.
The current study has implications for group decisions in general, and jury deliberations in particular, by suggesting that expressing anger might lead men to gain influence, but women to lose influence over others (even when making identical arguments), say the study’s authors.
The idea of a woman as being irrational is ingrained in our culture. But hopefully as more and more women show their leadership, and take charge, these notions can be re-looked at. Here’s hoping!