Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)




Faculty of Science

First Advisor

Mary K. Lane

Advisor Role

Thesis Supervisor


The purpose of this study was two-fold. Part one was to develop an attitude questionnaire which could be used to discriminate between women with a traditionalist or liberated attitude toward toward their role in society. Part two was to choose Ss on the basis of their responses to the questionnaire and find behavioral manifestations of these attitudes. The assumption was made that the underlying difference between the two attitudes was the acceptance or rejection of male superiority.

Eight groups of female Ss, 4 traditionalist and 4 liberated, participated in a physiological experiment in which their systolic blood pressure responses following harassment by a male or female E were indicative of their reaction to the E as a superior or an equal. This experimental design was based on a series of studies by Hokanson and his colleagues (1961, 1962, 1963, 1966, 1968) in which the high or low status of a frustrator determined the retention or reduction of blood pressure arousal following harassment.

A 2 x 2 x 2 experimental design was used in which the sex of the E, status of the E, and the attitude of the S were the independent variables. The dependent variable was the change in systolic blood pressure of the S following harassment, in a no opportunity to aggress situation.

The results indicated that the verbalizations of both a traditionalist and liberated role concept were found to have counterparts in behaviour. Female Ss who had expressed a traditionalist attitude toward a male showed a drop in blood pressure following frustration by a male E which was consistent with Hokanson’s findings of interaction with an E of high status. Similarly, Ss with a liberated attitude maintained their blood pressure arousal following harassment which was consistent with Hokanson’s findings with an E of low status. In interaction with a female E, traditionalist Ss did not accept the superiority of the E as evidenced by their retention of blood pressure arousal, while liberated Ss showed a reduction, indicating acceptance of another woman’s superiority.

A major conclusion was that the interaction of the role concept of a S and the sex of an E is an important variable in any interpersonal situation. This confirmed and extended Hokanson’s studies which had shown that a number of social variables have a significant effect on changes in systolic blood pressure.

This study is of particular significance as it represents the first behavioral validation of two current attitudes of Canadian women toward their role in society.

Convocation Year