Megan McCarty and Janice Kelly of Purdue University said they has research assistants sit unobtrusively on a bench at two different academic building entrances on a large university campus. They indicated the following each time an instance of door holding occurred: the gender of the door holder, the gender of the person(s) helped, and how the door was held.
Both building entrances had two doors directly next to each other that opened outward, such that individuals entering the building had to pull the door towards them to enter.
Men were unlikely to have the door held open for them in a chivalrous manner -- they walked through the door before the person helping them does.
The researchers said 276 door-holding instances, involving a total of 573 people, were observed. As the gendered nature of receiving door-holding help was of primary interest, 11 instances in which a mixed-gendered group of people received help were excluded from the analyses, leaving a total of 265 instances.
In the majority of observed door-holding instances, 62.2 percent of the time the door was held such that the door holder walked through the door first, but held the door back for someone following him or her.
The second most frequently observed type of door holding at 17.6 percent was when the door holder opened the door and let the person following enter the building before him or her.
For the primary analyses, the manner in which the door was held was coded dichotomously: the chivalrous door-holding type of interest versus any other type of door holding.
Male participants who had the door held for them by a male confederate reported lower self-esteem and self-efficacy than those who did not have the door held for them.
Female participants' self-esteem and self-efficacy were unaffected by door-holding condition. These effects were obtained in the field using a brief helping behavior manipulation without extensive social interaction. Thus, these results demonstrate that experiencing brief, simple, but unexpected helping behaviors that violate gender norms can have negative consequences, the researchers said.
The findings were published in Social Influence.