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The study found that male college students who were given falsely low results on a handgrip strength test exaggerated their height by three-quarters of an inch on average, reported having more romantic relationships, claimed to be more aggressive and athletic, and showed less interest in stereotypically feminine consumer products.By contrast, men who received average score results, and whose masculinity was therefore not threatened, did not exaggerate those characteristics.
And new University of Washington research finds that men who believe they fall short of those ideals might be prompted to reassert their masculinity in small but significant ways.
Published last week in , the research sought to understand how men respond when their masculinity is threatened, and looked at two specific strategies they might employ: playing up their manliness and rejecting feminine preferences.
Identifying the various strategies men use when their masculinity is threatened, Cheryan said, can help with understanding male behavior in real-life situations.
'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,' she said.
Researchers marked their scores on sheets that showed bogus bell curves representing male and female results, with the female curve clearly lower than the male one.
Participants were scored either in the middle of the female or the male curve, suggesting that their grip was either weak or average.
The magazine had a feature that asked men on the street how much they could bench press and then brought them into a gym to put their statements to the test.
Most couldn't bench what they claimed they could, and that got Cheryan thinking: What would those men do, she wondered, now that their masculinity was threatened?
The findings, researchers say, underscore the pressure men feel to live up to gender stereotypes and the ways in which they might reinstate a threatened masculinity.
'We know that being seen as masculine is very important for a lot of men,' said lead author Sapna Cheryan, a UW associate professor of psychology.