Exploring Moderators of Gender Differences: Contextual Differences in Door-Hoiding Behavior1


  • 1

    The authors thank Eva Fong and David Worrels for their help with data collection.

Correspondence concerning this article should be addressed to Janice D. Yoder, Department of Psychology, University of Akron, Akron, OH 44325–4301.


The simple behavior of holding a door for another person can be interpreted as gender-neutral, helpful, or benevolently sexist. Each interpretation leads to competing hypotheses predicting no gender differences in door holding, consistent door holding by men as chivalrous helpers, and door holding by men in the gender-salient context of dating but not in everyday interactions, respectively. Observations of 769 college-aged, female-male dyads found a strong pattern of male door holding in dating but not in everyday contexts. This pattern highlights social role theory's emphasis on understanding contextual moderators of apparent gender differences, changes in door-holding behavior in everyday contexts across the past 20 years, and the benevolent sexism subtly conveyed by male dominance in door holding in dating contexts.