With additional reporting by Brittney McKenna
According to new research from the University of Washington, there's a pretty surefire way to get a man to overcompensate for his masculinity: tell him he's a little weakling.
The study, published last week in the journal Social Psychology, discovered this tendency when researchers had a group of male college students try a handgrip strength test. Some men were given their actual test results, while some were tricked into thinking their grip strength was weak despite years of solo practice with, uh, gripping stuff.
Following the grip test, the men had to fill out a questionnaire about their physical characteristics and personality traits. Those who had believed themselves to score weaker on the grip test performed a little differently on this survey. More specifically, they exaggerated their heights by an average of three quarters of an inch, though the study does not state whether they exaggerated any other measurements.
"Height is something you think would be fixed, but how tall you say you are is malleable, at least for men," Sapna Cheryan, the study's lead author, told University of Washington Today.
Researchers came to the same conclusion in a second test that assigned "masculinity scores" to men. Those who scored low on the test were more likely to ask for "manly" products as compensation for their participation, despite the fact that women's razors get a closer shave and pink candies always taste best.
"This research shows that men are under very strong prescriptive norms to be a certain way, and they work hard to correct the image they project when their masculinity is under threat," study co-author Benoît Monin said.
Though these aren't entirely surprising results, we can still add this study to the growing evidence that the stereotypes around masculinity and femininity have harmful consequences. Maybe it's time men spent a little more time getting in touch with their feminine sides and a little less time doing solo grip practice.