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Marianne LaFrance

Professor (Ph.D., 1974, Boston University)

Research Interests

My primary research concerns how gender and power are reflected in and maintained by subtle communication processes. Nonverbal behaviors are of particular interest because they lie out-of-awareness and typically operate off-the-record. Also, nonverbal cues can simultaneously reveal information about an individual's identity and attitudes as well as shape and sustain social relationships. My goal is to determine why facial expressions, like smiling, or linguistic strategies like apologizing, reveal clear gender differences. Our conceptual model, called Expressivity Demand Theory, aims at specifying when people display such behaviors and what functions they serve in social interaction. In related research, we are investigating how gender and power affect patterns of implicit causality resulting from verbal descriptions. Our studies have shown that attributions for interpersonal events are substantially altered by the inclusion of gender or power information. Now, we are interested in determining why agents are seen as more causal when they are described as behaving toward women than when they behave towards men.

I am also interested in exploring the effects of being the target of seemingly innocuous prejudice, such as that conveyed through humor, slights, or small provocations. For example, we are investigating how women react verbally and nonverbally, on-line and after the fact, to hearing sexist jokes or being asked sexually provocative questions in a job interview. We are also examining how individual differences in such areas as self esteem and sexist attitudes affect emotional and behavioral responses to being the targets of acts of mundane prejudice. The organizing theme of my research is to understand how subtle and implicit messages reveal, justify, and preserve unequal social structures.

Sample Publications

LaFrance, M. (2001). Gender and social interaction. In R. Unger (Eds.), Handbook on the psychology of women and gender.

LaFrance, M., & Woodzicka, J. (2001). Real versus imagined reactions to sexual harassment. Journal of Social Issues, 57(1), 15-30.

LaFrance, M. (2001). Is rape natural? A review of A Natural History of Rape by Thornhill and Palmer. Contemporary Psychology, 46 (4), 377-379.

LaFrance, M., & Hecht, M.A. (2000). Why do women smile more than men? In A. Fischer (Ed.), Gender and emotions. (pp.118-142). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

LaFrance, M. (2000). The schemas and schemas in sex discrimination. Brooklyn Law Review, 65(4), 1063-1071.