How Gender and Cognitive Complexity Influence the Provision of Emotional Support: A Study of Indirect Effects

Document Type



Published by Taylor and Francis in Communication Reports Volume 15, Issue 1, pages 5-16.

Bryant University users may access this article here.




Taylor and Francis

Publication Source

Communication Reports


The current study examined the extent to which cognitive complexity—a well known predictor of message behavior—mediated sex differences in the production of person-centered comforting messages. Two hundred and eight students (102 men and 106 women) representing a variety of majors at a large midwestern university participated in the study. They responded to Crockett's (1965) Role Category Questionnaire (a measure of cognitive complexity) and three hypothetical situations designed to elicit their levels of comforting ability. Responses to the comforting scenarios were coded for their degree of person-centeredness (Burleson, 1984). Results demonstrated the partial mediating effects of cognitive complexity. However, the effects of sex were large and remained significant even when controlling for complexity.