The affective consequences of threats to masculinity

Theresa K. Vescio, Nathaniel E.C. Schermerhorn, Jonathan M. Gallegos, Marlaina L. Laubach

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

20 Scopus citations


Three experiments (N = 1083) explored whether masculinity threats (vs. assurances) led to emotions that have been linked to well-being, social connection, and the expression of aggression, including (a) increases in feelings of shame and guilt (Experiment 1) and (b) decreases in perspective-taking and empathy (Experiment 2). In addition, we explored whether masculinity assurances (vs. threats) had a positive effect on men's feelings of pride. To determine whether the affective responses to masculinity threats were unique to gender identity, we replicated the findings in comparison to a second social identity threat (Experiment 3). Consistent with predictions, and replicating prior work, men but not women expressed more public discomfort and anger following a gender threat (vs. assurance), as well as more shame and guilt when their masculinity was threatened than when their masculinity was assured (Experiment 2). Importantly, these affective responses were unique to men experiencing gender threats (Experiment 3). Interestingly, consistent with empathy avoidance predictions, when threatened, men reported lower dispositional levels of other focused empathy (Experiment 2), but these effects were not specific to gender threats (Experiment 3). Findings revealed empathy reductions, but not diminished reports of perspective taking, in threat conditions. No consistent evidence of effects of gender feedback on men's pride (authentic or hubristic) emerged. The implications of findings are discussed.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number104195
JournalJournal of Experimental Social Psychology
StatePublished - Nov 2021

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Social Psychology
  • Sociology and Political Science


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