Shari L. Michaud

University of New Hampshire



Mentor: Dr. Rebecca Warner - Professor of Psychology

The Effects of Gender and Sex-Role Orientation on Communication

In this study, gender and sex role orientation differences in communication styles (e. g. joking, sympathizing, changing the subject) and emotional responses (e. g. positive and negative affect) to a communication style were investigated. College students (N = 74) were asked to fill out the Bem Sex Role Inventory (Bem, 1974, 1977) and the Communication Styles Survey developed by UNH researchers. These surveys were used to measure the participant's sex role identity and the communication style that each participant used (or the emotional response that they held) as a response to a hypothetical problem presented to them by a same or opposite sex friend, or by them to a same or opposite sex friend.

Gender differences were found in four of the scales of the Communication Styles Survey, suggesting that men are more likely to joke, change the subject, and tell their friend "not to worry" and less likely to sympathize than women. Differences between sex role orientation were also found, suggesting that feminine and individuals holding both masculine and feminine characteristics (i. e. androgynous) are less likely to change the subject than undifferentiated and masculine typed individuals. Androgynous individuals were also found to be less likely to feel positive affect towards receiving advice in response to their problem than feminine typed individuals. The reliability of the Communication Styles Survey was also assessed. All scales were found to be moderately to highly reliable. Necessary changes were made to improve the reliability of some scales for future use.

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