Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts in Psychology



First Advisor

Bernice Lott


This study investigated intergender distancing behavior in a naturalistic interpersonal situation. During four evenings, the 1,942 people who passed through the lobby of a College of Continuing Education building were unobtrusively observed as they chose to approach or not approach male or female confederates standing next to identical or different signs, handing out demographic questionnaires. Actual participants in this study were the 526 persons (286 women and 240 men) who did approach confederate stimulus persons. During two evening sessions young men and women (in their early twenties) were stimulus persons and during two other evening sessions older men and women (in their mid-forties) were stimulus persons. Passers-by who took questionnaires could choose to return or not return them to a collection box. It was predicted that men would approach female stimulus persons less often than they would approach similarly aged male confederates handing out material; that this difference in men's gender-based approach would be greater when the stimulus persons were apparently handing out different material than when they were handing out the same material; and that this difference in men 's gender-based approach would be greater when the stimulus persons were in their forties than in their twenties. It was also predicted that women would not differ significantly in their approach of young or older male and female stimulus persons under any of the conditions. Findings did not support these hypotheses. Contrary to prediction, men did not base their approach of young or older stimulus persons on gender in any of the conditions. Women consistently approached young and older women significantly more often than they approached similarly aged men. An interpretation of these findings which proposes that social norms and other situational variables are possible predictors of intergender distancing is presented. The necessity for examining the circumstances under which interpersonal. distancing occurs is discussed.



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