Sex Roles

, Volume 37, Issue 5, pp 295-317

First online:

“Subordination” and Nonverbal Sensitivity: A Study and Synthesis of Findings Based on Trait Measures

  • Judith A. HallAffiliated withDepartment of Psychology, Northeastern University
  • , Amy G. HalberstadtAffiliated withNorth Carolina State University
  • , Christopher E. O'BrienAffiliated withNortheastern University

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We conducted a primary study and a meta-analysis on the relation of trait “subordination” measures to trait measures of sensitivity to nonverbal cues, in order to test the hypothesis that more subordinate individuals have enhanced ability to decode nonverbal cues. In the primary study, subordination measures included socioeconomic background, two dominance scales, a capacity for status scale, a control by powerful others scale, self-ratings of leadership and social status in high school, and for women, measures of sex role values. Sensitivity to nonverbal cues was measured using three psychometric tests, Results showed little overall support for the subordination hypothesis, and some results were significantly opposite to the prediction. The meta-analysis showed that dominance, capacity for status, socioeconomic status, and women's sex role values all had relations to nonverbal sensitivity that were opposite to the predictions of the subordination hypothesis. Future prospects for the subordination hypothesis with respect to nonverbal sensitivity are discussed.