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Unmitigated agency and unmitigated communion: An analysis of the negative components of masculinity and femininity

Abstract

The negative components of masculinity and femininity, conceptualized by Spence and her colleagues (1979) as unmitigated agency and unmitigated communion, were explored by examining dominant and submissive acts used in their expression. In three separate sessions, subjects (N=129) completed scales designed to measure these constructs, a Dominance Act Report, and a Submissiveness Act Report. Dominant acts used in the expression of unmitigated agency involved the formation of separations (e.g., making decisions without consulting the others involved in them), narcissistic self-assertion (e.g., telling others to perform one's menial tasks), and self-protection (e.g., bluffing one's way out of an embarrassing situation). Submissive acts used in the expression of unmitigated communion involved failing to make normatively appropriate agentic responses (e.g., walking out of a store knowing that one had been short-changed) and subjugating personal desires to group wishes (e.g., giving up vacation plans in deference to the preferences of others). Discussion focuses on elaborating the concepts of unmitigated agency and unmitigated communion.

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Author information

Correspondence to David M. Buss.

Additional information

This article was completed while the author was a Fellow at the Center for Advanced Study in the Behavioral Sciences. Support was provided by NIMH Grant MH-44206-01, NSF Grant BNS98-00864, and the Gordon P. Getty Trust. The author thanks Kenneth H. Craik and Carolyn Phinney for their valuable suggestions on earlier drafts of this article.

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Buss, D.M. Unmitigated agency and unmitigated communion: An analysis of the negative components of masculinity and femininity. Sex Roles 22, 555–568 (1990). https://doi.org/10.1007/BF00288234

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Keywords

  • Social Psychology
  • Agentic Response
  • Negative Component
  • Separate Session
  • Personal Desire