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A Study Finds Men Lie When Their Masculinity Is Threatened

Associate Press


When a man’s masculinity is threatened in a minor way it can lead him to tell blatant lies. This is the finding of a new study from researchers at the University of Washington and Stanford.

Male college students were asked to squeeze a device to measure hand strength. They saw their scores being placed on either a bell curve for men or a weaker, female curve. All of the results were bogus. The students who saw their grip strength fall short of the masculine ideal were the same people who lied on a questionnaire they filled out later.

“As a result of being told they had a weak handshake they reported they were taller than they were and reporting they had more romantic relationships than the control group,” says Benoit Monin, a psychology professor at Stanford and one of the study’s authors.


Monin says it’s easy to look at the data and snicker at how precarious masculinity seems to be.   

But he also says the sad part of these findings is realizing the pressure men are under.


“They are changing the facts of their life, just because we put the cross at a different spot on the clipboard.”


In another experiment students were told to take a written masculinity test.  Afterwards they were offered a range of prizes for participating. Again, the results were fake.


Students who got a low score of 26 out of 100, stayed away from free theater tickets and gift cards for clothing stores. Instead researchers say these young men tried to reassert their masculinity by going for Home Depot vouchers and an unassembled IKEA desk.


This study is part of a larger project the University of Washington and Stanford are collaborating on which is examining how identity and a sense of belonging shape every day decisions. Researchers say many of the choices we make in social situations and at work are influenced by a need we have to belong and defend threats to our identities.


If the students in the masculinity study were told they had a strong grip Monin predicts it would have let them explore other options because they would have felt secure. Then, perhaps they’d be more likely to take a chance and grab the theater tickets instead of choosing the hundreds bits of plywood and metal from IKEA waiting to be turned into a desk.  

Jennifer Wing is a former KNKX reporter and producer who worked on the show Sound Effect and Transmission podcast.