University Research Shows Men Tend to Exaggerate When Their Masculinity Is Threatened

Research by scholars at the University of Washington and Stanford University examines how men respond when their masculinity is threatened.

A group of college men were given a handgrip strength test. Researchers told one group of participants results that were lower than the actual results on the test, therefore challenging their masculinity. A control group was given accurate test results. All participants were then asked a series of questions on height, number of romantic relationships, and interest in products that were traditionally marketed to men and women. Participants were also asked a number of “distracter questions” to disguise the purpose of the study.

The data showed that the group of college men who were given artificially low results on the strength test, proceeded to exaggerate their height by an average of three quarters of an inch. They also reported more romantic relationships and claimed to be more athletic and aggressive than men in the group who received correct results on the strength test.

sapnaLead author of the study, Sapna Cheryan, an associate professor of psychology at the University of Washington, said that “we know that being seen as masculine is very important for a lot of men. Men have a lot of power in our society, and what this study shows is that some decisions can be influenced by how they’re feeling about their masculinity in the moment.” Dr. Cheryan has been on the faculty at the University of Washington since 2007. She is a graduate of Northwestern University and holds a Ph.D. in psychology from Stanford University.

Co-author Benoit Monin, a professor of organizational behavior and psychology at Stanford University, added that “this research shows that men are under very strong prescriptive norms to be a certain way, and they work hard to correct the image they project when their masculinity is under threat.”

The article, “Threatened Men Compensate by Disavowing Feminine Preferences and Embracing Masculine Attributes,” was published on the website of the journal Social Psychology. It may be accessed here.

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