A high power - low power account of gender differences in self-criticism

Latham, C.A. / Published 1990 / Article

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Citation: Latham, C.A. (1990). A High Power - Low Power Account of Gender Advances in Descriptive Psychology, Vol. 5 (pp. 237-259). Ann Arbor, MI: Descriptive Psychology Press.

Abstract: In this study, gender differences in self-criticism are investigated utilizing the concept of high power-low power from Descriptive Psychology. High power-low power refers to a particular type of complementary relationship. The high power position involves initiating and terminating projects and plans, setting standards and evaluating progress, making decisions and insisting on certain things. The low power position involves selectively encouraging, implementing, elaborating, and interpreting decisions. It was assumed that in mixed-sex relationships, males are typically in the high power position and females are in the low power position. Hypotheses included (1) that being in a low power position leads to more self-criticism in females than in males, (2) that males are more likely than females to reject the low power position. Each of the above hypotheses was partially supported by the results. No support was obtained for the additional hypotheses that females are more self-critical, and more criticized by others, when in a high power position. One hundred and twelve subjects completed a questionnaire that presented stories depicting a male and female in a high power-low power relationship completing tasks in the female domain and in the male domain. Subjects rated the likelihood of responses that both persons in the stories may have had. Measures of self-criticism and rejection of the power position were derived from the likelihood ratings. The situational context of the high powerlow power relationship must be taken into account in understanding men's and women's tendencies toward self-criticism.