Gender and Emotion: What We Think We Know, What We Need to Know, and Why It Matters

Stephanie A. Shields

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

75 Scopus citations


I draw on research on emotion and gender to illustrate how an essentialized view of gender as difference persists through the circulation of beliefs about gender from popular culture to scientific writing and back again. I begin by describing the paradoxical nature of beliefs about emotion and then show that emotion's representations in beliefs and stereotypes have a powerful effect on how we interpret our own and others' emotional behavior. I consider how the differences paradigm, the study of gender in terms of identification of difference(s) between girls/women and boys/men, aids the circulation of essentialized beliefs about gender from popular culture to psychological science. Specifically, essentializing discourses from popular culture are absorbed into scientific discourse and gain scientific authorization via research undertaken within a differences paradigm. These results circulate back again to popular culture and the cycle continues. I conclude with a discussion of how the differences paradigm can be disrupted by a research approach informed by contextual factors that moderate gender effects, the intersectionality of social identities, and attentiveness to gender fault lines, giving examples from our work on the "negotiability" of emotion's meaning and emotion's representation in language. My article has implications for counselors and therapists whose clients struggle with the expression of emotions, instructors who want to encourage their students to explore how they think about gender as essentialized, and researchers concerned with interpersonal interactions, especially workplace interactions where understanding of others' emotions often has a gendered cast.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)423-435
Number of pages13
JournalPsychology of Women Quarterly
Issue number4
StatePublished - Dec 2013

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Gender Studies
  • Developmental and Educational Psychology
  • Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous)
  • General Psychology


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