News flash: Men will lie to appear more masculine when their masculinity is called into question. So report researchers at the University of Washington in a study published last week in the journal Social Psychology.
Men who were led to believe they fall short of the ideals of manliness (i.e. told their hand grip strength was less than it really is) would overcompensate (i.e.
lie about their height, number of past romantic relationships, and athleticism), while men who were told their grip is average would not. The researchers trot out Johnny Cash’s “A Boy Named Sue,” in which the title character becomes scrappy and prone to fighting when his name is mocked, as an example.
They also note that women are under pressure to live up to feminine ideals and can similarly exaggerate femininity to demonstrate gender norms. “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,” co-author Benoît Monin, a professor of organizational behavior and psychology at Stanford University, said in the school press release.
This level of sensitivity to perceived emasculation can be tough on men themselves and the people around them, reports Salon. Meanwhile, other studies have found that unemployed men are more likely to use force against women and men with baby faces are more likely to commit crimes.
(Another Stanford professor warns that porn and video games are behind a masculinity crisis.)
This article originally appeared on Newser: How Men React When You Question Their Manhood