Measuring attitudes toward assertive responding
The focus of the present study was the measurement of attitudes toward people acting in an assertive manner, compared to those who are acting in an aggressive or passive manner. Earlier studies suggest there are several mitigating factors on social judgments of assertiveness. These include: sex of the assertor (model), sex of the subject, the assertion situation, and the degree of empathy or consideration in the assertive response. The present study sought to investigate the roles of subject sex, model sex, and situation on social judgments of assertiveness. Further, an empathic assertive condition was included to allow a comparison between ratings of empathic assertive and assertive responses. The empathic assertive response paired assertiveness with extra consideration and understanding toward the other person.Each of 150 university undergraduate subjects (75 men and 75 women) reviewed one written vignette from each of four situations (i.e., work, class lecture, telephone solicitation, dating). Model sex and behavioral response style were randomly assigned. A 26 item personality inventory (Interpersonal Attraction Inventory) was completed by each subject for each vignette.Significant main effects were revealed for both behavioral response style and situation. Subject ratings of behavioral response style were as follows, from least to most favorable: aggressive, passive, assertive, and empathic-assertive. Subject ratings of situation were as follows, from least to most favorable: date, telephone solicitor, work, lecture. The only significant interaction was between behavioral response style and situation. There were no significant main effects or interactions for subject sex or model sex.The present results contradict earlier studies in which passive women were rated significantly more positively than assertive women. Given the time elapsed between the present data collection (1993) and the majority of earlier studies (1987 and earlier) it is possible that sex role change is responsible. In addition, results indicate that what was referred to as empathic assertion in the present study may be a socially distinct class of behavior from assertive behavior. Clearly more research is required in order to confirm a societal sex role change, differences between assertiveness and empathic assertiveness, and generalizability of the present results.