The Unexpressive Male

An excellent class discussion can easily be built around the recent study, “Guys can’t say that to guys”: Four experiments assessing the normative motivation account for deficiencies in the emotional support provided by men (Communication Monographs, 72, December, 468-501) by Brant Burleson, Amanda Holmstrom, and Cristina Gilstrap. The basic question they asked was what accounts for males not being as emotionally supportive as women. The answer, according to this study: “Our present studies suggest that men use lower quality forms of emotional support because, in part, they want to maintain a masculine gender-role identity, particularly when interacting with other men.” It’s hard to believe that men are so focused on maintaining a “masculine gender role identity” that they would fail to provide significant/appropriate levels of emotional support. But if they are, surely we’ve done something wrong—as parents, as friends, as teachers of interpersonal communication (and of psychology, sociology, anthropology, and lots more). And, perhaps the more interesting question, what to do?

A new phonetic symbol

Reports the New York Times (12/13/05, p. F4): A new phonetic symbol, the first in 12 years, has been added to the 28 vowel, 86 consonant, and 75 other marks for stress and aspiration, for example by the International Phonetic Association. The new symbol, called a labiodental flap, is written as a “V” with a little curve on the left and is intended to represent the sound in some 70 African languages that sounds like a buzz with a slight pop.


Exposure to noise is correlated with an increase in the risk of heart attack. Although a cause-effect relationship has not been proven conclusively, the evidence does suggest that noise is likely a cause in the increase of heart attack risk. According to the New York Times (12/13/05, p. E5): “The bottom line: Chronic exposure to noise is associated with a higher risk of heart disease.”

Conflict and Healing

In an interesting study subjects had blisters created on their arms with a vacuum pump. Then the couples (42 happily married couples, aged 22-77) interacted in two ways: (1) discussing something they wanted to change about themselves and asking their spouses for support and (2) resolving a marital conflict. Not surprisingly, the blisters healed more quickly after the supportive discussion than after the conflict discussion. And the very hostile couples healed at less than half the rate of the low-hostility couples. This little report appeared in the New York Times December 13, 2005, p. F6. The study was published in the December issue of the Archives of General Psychiatry, but as far as I can tell, is not in the popular databases yet.



In a special report in USA Today it appears that blind dating is coming back. Long regarded as a last resort, people are now looking differently at the set up date—there’s likely to be more accurate descriptions (less chance of deception) than would appear in Internet dating and less chance of meeting a true undesirable at a singles club. At least some mutual friend thinks enough of the person to recommend him or her and that’s more than you get from the bar or the Internet.

Ethics and Business

In a USA Today survey, 69 percent of teens between 13 and 18 agreed that good business ethics led to greater success—up from 62% in 2004 and 56% in 2003.


Seeing Lynne Truss’s Talk to the Hand—an interesting perspective on manners and their decline to downright rudeness--(she also wrote Eats, Shoots & Leaves, btw) reviewed in the Times, I recalled how effectively using an etiquette book along with a standard interpersonal text worked in the Introduction to Interpersonal Communication course. The students were amazingly receptive to it and realized this was also a part of communication that they needed to know if they were going to make it in the business world. I gave them a list of etiquette books at the beginning of the semester and told them that they should examine several and pick the one they thought would help them the most. Since they were all using different books, I really couldn’t test them on it but I’m convinced they read them; they frequently referred to the etiquette books during class discussions and I saw many students carrying the book.



Here’s an interesting update on the overly brief discussion of outing in some of my books. A federal judge has ruled that Charlene Nguon may proceed with her lawsuit against the principal of Santiago High School in Garden Grove, California for outing her to her parents. The judge ruled that the student had “sufficiently alleged a legally protected privacy interest in information about her sexual orientation.” Of course, it’s too early to say what will happen here but it’s nice to see someone standing up for the right to privacy.

Relationship News

South Africa’s highest court recently ruled (unanimously) that partners in same-sex marriages will be given the same legal status as those in opposite-sex marriages. Marriage laws will be amended to include the words “or spouse” along with the provisions referring to “wives” and “husbands.” Although it will take a year for the ruling to go into effect—to give Parliament the time it needs to amend a marriage law from 1961—South Africa will soon join four other nations that have legalized same-sex marriage: the Netherlands, Belgium, Spain, and Canada.


The recent revelation that the United States has been paying public relations experts to write stories favorable to the US military to be published in Iraqi newspapers in a multimillion-dollar covert propaganda campaign must be giving journalism classes an interesting ethics lesson. And, apparently, US tax dollars are also being paid to Iraqi journalists to write the right stories. And, many of these stories use copyrighted material without attribution. I anxiously await the reactions of our national communication associations or will it be just business as usual and the familiar blind eye toward the real world?