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Sex roles and chivalry: Some conditions of gratitude to altruism

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In a quasi-field experiment 479 subjects (beneficiaries) were observed as experimenters (benefactors) performed an altruistic act for them. Their responses were classified mainly into shows of gratitude, such as saying “Thank you.” Such amenities are expected in a traditional model of courtly chivalry, i.e., the door-opening ceremony. Experimenters were randomly assigned in a three-factor design, setting × sex of experimenter × sex of subject, with approximately 60 subjects per cell. The town-gown setting (university vs. community library) unexpectedly produced no difference. Traditional pairs (i.e., male benefactors and female beneficiaries) elicited most thanks. Estimated physical attractiveness of subject interacted strikingly with sex in affecting level of thanks shown. Most thankful were plain female beneficiaries for whom male benefactors held doors open. Overall, the data conformed best with a traditional model but also hinted at anomie (tradition in transition).

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This study owes its inspiration in part and its execution in toto to Rex Perry, Nancy Bird, Mike Bright, Lisa Campbell, Jill Dalley, Mike Edwards, Billy Holbert, Amy Kuehler, Gwen LeBaron, Jerry Minx, Saundra Morris, Kristi Prewitt, Kathy Rice, Ed Sergeant, Joy Sherrell, Ivey Suber, Kerry Trimoli, Kay Wallace, Marty Watkins, and Eva Wood.

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Ventimiglia, J.C. Sex roles and chivalry: Some conditions of gratitude to altruism. Sex Roles 8, 1107–1122 (1982). https://doi.org/10.1007/BF00290967

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  • Social Psychology
  • Traditional Model
  • Physical Attractiveness
  • Female Beneficiary
  • Community Library