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The meaning of tears: Which sex seems emotional depends on the social context


Correspondence to: Agneta H. Fischer, Department of Social Psychology, University of Amsterdam, Weesperplein 4, 1018 XA Amsterdam, The Netherlands.



The media coverage sometimes given to crying women points to the importance of understanding whether gender affects interpretations of crying. This article reports two studies that examined whether observers infer different emotions or dispositions from crying men and women. Study 1 showed that, in the absence of information about the social context of crying, participants inferred gender-stereotypical traits and emotions. Study 2's manipulation of the social context of crying (relationship versus employment) affected participants' interpretations of crying by men and women. In employment contexts, participants perceived crying men as more emotional and sad than crying women as well as less competent. The emotionality inferences mediated the judgments of differing male and female competence. In relationship contexts, interpretations of crying women and men did not differ. Copyright © 2013 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.