One Angry Woman: Anger Expression Increases Influence for Men, but Decreases Influence for Women, During Group Deliberation
During group deliberations, the act of expressing anger increases a man’s influence but decreases a woman’s influence.
In recent decades, juries in the American judicial system have been increasingly diversified. However, jury scholars have identified a “White male dominance” effect that happens in jury deliberations, in which White men are more influential in real and mock juries. If the women and minority jurors do not exert as much influence in the jury deliberations as their white male peers, then the diversity in American juries would only be token representation. Equitable social influence in a group deliberation is important for enforcing equality in the judicial process and is important for increasing the public’s confidence in the verdict of juries.
Furthermore, there is a long history of women being perceived as less influential, competent, and rational than men during group discussions and decision-making—including jury deliberations—due to their perception of being too emotional. Some high-profile examples of this include Justice Sonia Sotomayor, whose minority dissent in Schuette v. Coalition to Defend Affirmative Action was dismissed as "fueled by emotion,” and Senator Diane Feinstein, whose committee report on CIA torture techniques was dismissed for similar reasons.
Despite these public examples, there is little experimental evidence that documents the effect of expressing emotion on the social influence that women and men have in group deliberations. Through a computer simulated mock jury experiment with undergraduate students, this study sought to investigate how the expression of emotion would impact the ability of men and women to influence a group deliberation situation in a jury setting.
During group deliberations, the act of expressing anger decreased a woman’s influence on the study participant’s verdict opinion.
- When a woman holding the minority or least common opinion in a jury deliberation expressed anger, participants perceived her as being more emotional. As a result, participants reported more confidence in their own opinions, which opposed the woman’s minority opinion.
During group deliberations, the act of expressing anger increased a man’s influence.
- When a man holding a minority opinion in a jury deliberation expressed anger, participants perceived him as more credible, which made them less confident in their own opinions, which opposed the man’s minority opinion.
- However, there is a slight caveat, which is that expressing anger led participants to view the man as more emotional, which slightly lessened his influence. However, the overall effect of expressing anger is that it increased the man’s influence. Therefore, the negative effect of the man being perceived as more emotional was outweighed by the positive effect of the man being perceived as more credible.
These trends in the relationship between the expression of emotion and social influence were not seen with the expression of no emotion and the expression of fear. The expression of anger in a group deliberation led to decreased social influence in women and increased social influence in men. Therefore, the expression of anger created a gender gap in influence that did not exist without the expression of anger.
In this study, researchers investigated the impact of the expression of emotion on social influence in a group deliberation. The study participants were 244 jury-eligible undergraduates, who participated for course credit. They were told that they would be in a mock jury deliberation in an online forum, with the five other participants in their jury group located in other computer labs across the university campus. In reality, they were merely interacting in a computer-simulated jury, in which the responses of all five of the other jury members were pre-scripted. They were presented a criminal case in which they had to express the opinion of whether the defendant was “guilty” or “not guilty.” If they deemed the defendant “guilty,” then 4 of their fellow jurors would also express a “guilty” opinion, while 1 juror would express a “not guilty” opinion. This final juror is referred to as the “holdout.” If the participant expressed the reverse opinion (“not guilty”), then the arrangement would be flipped (4 fellow jurors would express a “not guilty” opinion and 1 would express a “guilty” opinion). This holdout would either be a male or female (indicated by their username), and would express either no emotion, anger, or fear, when voicing their opinion. The holdout’s emotion would be unambiguously expressed by phrases such as “this just makes me angry…,” or “it scares me to think about…” In order to avoid making it obvious that the researchers’ focus was on the effects of the holdout’s emotion, participants were asked to rate all 5 of their co-jurors on how trustworthy, influential, likable, competent, credible, persuasive and rational each of them were on a scale of 1 to 5. Following 7 rounds of these scenarios, the participants were asked a yes/no suspicion probe to check whether they noticed anything strange about the study. After the 4th scenario for each participant, one of the co-jurors with a majority opinion in the computer simulation would switch their opinion over to the minority opinion, in order to increase realism in the simulation.