Emotional Sex Differences Not Based on Inventories

The assessment of personality rests largely on inventories and other testing instruments. In the case of emotion, however, researchers often employ a variety of additional measurement techniques, some of which will be exemplified here.

The Dictionary of Affect is a tool developed to assess the emotionality of language in terms of two dimensions, Pleasantness and Activation (Whissell, 1994a). It is based on ratings assigned by individuals to words along these dimensions. According to Dictionary of Affect scoring, there are emotional differences in descriptive words typical of the two sexes, with men being described more in terms of Activation and women more in terms of Pleasantness (Whissell & Chellew, 1994). Echoes of the male = more Active/female = more Pleasant distinction were found when the Dictionary was used to score excerpts from popular fiction (Whissell, 1994b, 1998) and similar differences were identified in the emotion underlying the language in advertisements directed at men, women, boys, and girls (Rovinelli & Whissell, 1998; Whissell & McCall, 1997).

A relatively new metric for emotion in language addresses the emotionality of the sounds that make up words, with sounds such as l and m being emotionally soft, and sounds such as r and g being emotional rougher (Whissell, 2001a). This metric capitalizes on the interaction between the muscle movements used to express emotion and those used to produce sound. When the metric was applied to several million men's and women's names, men's names were found to contain more Active sounds and women's names more Pleasant sounds (Whissell, 2001a). Both real and randomly created (nonsense) names evince this difference (Whissell, 2001b). A typically Active man's nonsense name was Mowgahk, and a typically Pleasant woman's nonsense name was Neera.

Sex differences are also evident in research that involves emotion-related behaviors. For example, Widen and Russell (2002) reported that the assignment of emotion to a figure in a story told to preschoolers depended on whether the figure was identified as male or female (e.g., disgust was more often attributed to the male figure by boys). In a different domain, MacGeorge, Clark, and Gillihan (2002) reported that women's provision of emotional support to a person in a troubling situation was more person-centered than that of men, and that women had a greater sense of self-efficacy in providing emotional support.

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