Gender Differences in Public Speaking Anxiety
Sponsored by Missouri Western State University Sponsored by a grant from the National Science Foundation DUE-97-51113
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The proper APA Style reference for this manuscript is:
PAALHAR, S. L. (2001). Gender Differences in Public Speaking Anxiety. National Undergraduate Research Clearinghouse, 4. Available online at http://www.webclearinghouse.net/volume/. Retrieved December 17, 2017 .

Gender Differences in Public Speaking Anxiety
STEPHANIE L. PAALHAR
MISSOURI WESTERN DEPARTMENT OF

Sponsored by: Brian Cronk (cronk@missouriwestern.edu)
ABSTRACT
Anxiety is the apprehension given off by a threat to some value that the individual holds important to his or her existence as a person (Engler, 1999). Many feel anxious when they are motivated to impress others but doubt their ability to do so. Significant gender differences exist among many measures including academic stress, time management, and anxiety (Misra & McKean, 2000). The experiment conducted consisted of 101 subjects from General and Intermediate Psychology Courses at Missouri Western State College in St. Joseph, Missouri. The purpose of the experiment was to see if females have greater amount of anxiety when giving a public speaking presentation than males. Participants were asked to answer a seven-item questionnaire rating their levels of anxiety in specific situations. A 2 X 2 between subjects factorial ANOVA was calculated comparing the anxiety scores for females giving a speech in front of an all female or male audience and also the males scores when giving a speech in front of an all female or male audience. The hypothesis was not supported that females would have a higher amount of anxiety than males. The main effect for the gender of the audience and the main effect for whether or not the gender of the subject mattered were both not significant. The interactions between the two were also not significant. It appears that the anxiety level is not any higher in males or females when in a situation of giving a speech to an all male or female audience.

INTRODUCTION
Public Speaking is a common source of stress for everyone. Many would like to avoid this situation completely, but that is difficult to accomplish. Myers (1999) found that giving a speech could make almost anyone feel anxious. Many people, especially those who are shy or easily embarrassed, feel anxious in almost any situation in which they might be evaluated. Even experienced speakers have some anxiety when speaking in front of a group of people; this is basically a normal feeling. Rollo May proposed that anxiety is the apprehension given off by a threat to some value that the individual holds important to his or her existence as a person (Engler, 1999). Myers (1999) suggested the implications for social anxiety are straightforward. Many feel anxious when they are motivated to impress others but doubt their ability to do so. Some feel most anxious when dealing with powerful, high-status people- people whose impressions matter; when one is self-conscious and their attention is focused on themselves and how they are coming across; and in an evaluative context, as when making a first impression. Hughes (1999) showed that the fear of speaking in public is considered the number one fear of all fears; with death ranking only number seven. The main reasons people feel anxious in this situation appear to be: a) An Unfamiliar Situation: because most people speak formal only rarely to an audience the novelty of the situation is a cause of apprehension, b) Lack of Confidence: this stems often from a feeling that others are better speakers than ourselves, or that they know more about the topic in question, c) Sense of Isolation: the speaker is alone, the center of attraction, and vulnerable, d) Self Consciousness: this means our accents, grammar, voice and image, and e) Fear of looking foolish: one worries they will forget what they are saying (Hughes, 1999). People who have this fear can experience all kinds of symptoms: sweaty palms accelerated heart rate, memory loss and even difficulty breathing (Laskowski, 2000). People with a strong sense of performance anxiety tend to fear public speaking with a passion. This could be one of the worst situations they could get in. Most worry of messing up their speech or simply falling on the way to the podium to give the speech. Misra and McKean (2000) show that significant gender differences exist among many measures including academic stress, time management, and anxiety. Females had more effective time management behaviors than males, but also experienced higher academic stress and anxiety. Adolescents especially, experience symptoms of depression and anxiety. Ohannessian and Lerner (1999) state that the examination of adolescent anxiety has been relatively neglected. Research that has been completed shows that adolescent girls are at a much greater risk for experiencing anxiety than boys. This gender difference continues throughout adulthood, with women remaining twice as likely to experience emotional problems than men. What age these gender differences start occurring is unclear. Most research has focused on middle-to-late adolescents. These findings might come from the fact that adolescent girls have lower levels of self-esteem, self-worth, perceived physical attractiveness, and athletic competence than do boys- with these perceptions it is likely that girls will have a greater amount of anxiety (Ohannessian & Lerner, 1999). The purpose of my experiment was to see if females have greater amount of anxiety when giving a public speaking presentation in general than males. I also wanted to see if there is any difference in anxiety ratings in men or women when giving a speech in front of an all female or all male audience when asked to rate what their anxiety levels would be in that situation. Overall, I wanted to see if there is any correlation between gender and public speaking anxiety.


INTRODUCTION
Public Speaking is a common source of stress for everyone. Many would like to avoid this situation completely, but that is difficult to accomplish. Myers (1999) found that giving a speech could make almost anyone feel anxious. Many people, especially those who are shy or easily embarrassed, feel anxious in almost any situation in which they might be evaluated. Even experienced speakers have some anxiety when speaking in front of a group of people; this is basically a normal feeling. Rollo May proposed that anxiety is the apprehension given off by a threat to some value that the individual holds important to his or her existence as a person (Engler, 1999). Myers (1999) suggested the implications for social anxiety are straightforward. Many feel anxious when they are motivated to impress others but doubt their ability to do so. Some feel most anxious when dealing with powerful, high-status people- people whose impressions matter; when one is self-conscious and their attention is focused on themselves and how they are coming across; and in an evaluative context, as when making a first impression. Hughes (1999) showed that the fear of speaking in public is considered the number one fear of all fears; with death ranking only number seven. The main reasons people feel anxious in this situation appear to be: a) An Unfamiliar Situation: because most people speak formal only rarely to an audience the novelty of the situation is a cause of apprehension, b) Lack of Confidence: this stems often from a feeling that others are better speakers than ourselves, or that they know more about the topic in question, c) Sense of Isolation: the speaker is alone, the center of attraction, and vulnerable, d) Self Consciousness: this means our accents, grammar, voice and image, and e) Fear of looking foolish: one worries they will forget what they are saying (Hughes, 1999). People who have this fear can experience all kinds of symptoms: sweaty palms accelerated heart rate, memory loss and even difficulty breathing (Laskowski, 2000). People with a strong sense of performance anxiety tend to fear public speaking with a passion. This could be one of the worst situations they could get in. Most worry of messing up their speech or simply falling on the way to the podium to give the speech. Misra and McKean (2000) show that significant gender differences exist among many measures including academic stress, time management, and anxiety. Females had more effective time management behaviors than males, but also experienced higher academic stress and anxiety. Adolescents especially, experience symptoms of depression and anxiety. Ohannessian and Lerner (1999) state that the examination of adolescent anxiety has been relatively neglected. Research that has been completed shows that adolescent girls are at a much greater risk for experiencing anxiety than boys. This gender difference continues throughout adulthood, with women remaining twice as likely to experience emotional problems than men. What age these gender differences start occurring is unclear. Most research has focused on middle-to-late adolescents. These findings might come from the fact that adolescent girls have lower levels of self-esteem, self-worth, perceived physical attractiveness, and athletic competence than do boys- with these perceptions it is likely that girls will have a greater amount of anxiety (Ohannessian & Lerner, 1999). The purpose of my experiment was to see if females have greater amount of anxiety when giving a public speaking presentation in general than males. I also wanted to see if there is any difference in anxiety ratings in men or women when giving a speech in front of an all female or all male audience when asked to rate what their anxiety levels would be in that situation. Overall, I wanted to see if there is any correlation between gender and public speaking anxiety.


METHOD

PARTICIPANTS
In the experiment conducted, data were collected from students in General Psychology 101 and Intermediate Psychology 200 courses taught at Missouri Western State College in St. Joseph, Missouri. I collected data from 101 subjects for my experiment. The subjects were all college students, most in their first or second year of college. Participants were asked to answer a 7-item scale, choosing the answer they felt in most agreement with, one of the answers being undecided. All subjects were treated in accordance with the “Ethical Principles of Psychologists and Code of Conduct” (American Psychological Association, 1999).

MATERIALS
For the experiment, I administered a questionnaire to my subjects. The questionnaire began with a situation for the subjects to read and apply it to statements for the subjects to rate. The questionnaire had a Likert-Type Scale rating from one- equaling strongly disagree to five- equaling strongly agree. A high score on this Likert-Type scale indicated a strong sense of performance anxiety. I have two reverse-key items included in my scale. An example is “You feel comfortable and secure about giving the speech.” I gave two situations in my questionnaire, half of the questionnaires had a situation worded like the subject was giving a speech to an all female audience (see Appendix A) and the situation in the other half of the questionnaires was worded with the subject giving a speech in front of an all male audience (see Appendix B). These different situations were asked to see if females or males rate anxiety levels differently when giving a speech to the different gender audiences.

PROCEDURE
I conducted my research in the Janet Gorman Murphy Building on the Missouri Western State College Campus in St. Joseph, Missouri. I administered a seven-item Likert-Type scale questionnaire to the subjects. I explained to the class that I am from the Experimental Psychology class and told them I was administering a questionnaire. I will simply then hand out the questionnaires to the class. The instructions for completing the questionnaire were at the top of the page and were self-explanatory for all. The subjects involved were from General Psychology 101 and Intermediate Psychology 200 courses. I had 101 subjects from the courses to administer my questionnaire to. All that completed the questionnaires received bonus points for doing so in their respective classes.


RESULTS
A 2 (Audience) X 2 (Gender) between subjects factorial ANOVA was calculated comparing the anxiety scores for females giving a speech in front of an all female or male audience and also the males scores when giving a speech in front of an all female of male audience. The main effect for the audience was not significant (F(1,97)=.307, p>.05). The main effect for whether or not gender mattered was also not significant (F(1,97)=.038,p>.05). Finally, the interaction was also not significant (F(1,97)=.408, p>.05). Thus, it appears that the anxiety level is not any higher in males or females when in a situation of giving a speech to an all male or female audience.


DISCUSSION
The experiment conducted consisted of 101 subjects from General and Intermediate Psychology Courses at Missouri Western State College in St. Joseph, Missouri. The purpose of the experiment was to see if females have a greater amount of anxiety when giving a public speaking presentation than males. My original hypothesis was that females would in fact have a greater amount of public speaking anxiety, no matter what gender the audience was that the participants rated their levels of anxiety on. This hypothesis was not supported when the data were analyzed. A 2 X 2 between subjects factorial ANOVA was calculated comparing the anxiety scores for females giving a speech in front of an all female or male audience and also the males scores when giving a speech in front of an all female or male audience. The hypothesis was not supported that females would have a higher amount of anxiety than males. The main effect for the gender of the audience and the main effect for whether or not the gender of the subject mattered were both not significant. The interactions between the two were also not significant. In conclusion, it appears that the anxiety level is not any higher in males or females when in a situation of giving a speech to an all male or female audience. The results found in this study contradict earlier research by Misra & McKean (2000); therefore the work was inconsistent with previous research. There were a few limitations in this experiment, one major one being that the participants were just trying to hurry through the questionnaire and might not of answered the way they really felt. Also, of the subjects were college students, so it is hard to generalize these results across others. In future research on this gender difference in public speaking anxiety, one could actually conduct a situation in which subjects did give a speech in front of a same gender audience or the opposite, recording their levels of anxiety just before the speech is given. Also, more participants would be helpful and a wider range of people used for the study, not just college students.


REFERENCES
Engler, B. (1999). Personality Theories, fifth edition. Boston, NY. Houghton Mifflin Company. Hughes, D. (1999). Anxiety and Public Speaking. Laskowski, L. (2000). Overcoming Speaking Anxiety in Meetings and Presentations. Misra, R. & McKean, M. (2000). College Students’ Academic Stress and its Relation to Their Anxiety, Time Management, and Leisure Satisfaction. American Journal of Health Studies, 16, 41. Myers, D. (1999). Social Psychology, sixth edition. Holland, MI. McGraw-Hill Co. Ohannessian, C. & Lerner, R. (1999). Does Self-Competence Predict Gender Differences in Adolescent Depression and Anxiety. Journal of Adolescence, 22, 397.


APPENDIX A
ScaleRead the situation and apply to it each statement. Decide the extent to which you agree with it. Circle the number for which response is most appropriate for each.

5=STRONGLY AGREE 4=AGREE 3=UNDECIDED 2=DISAGREE 1=STRONGLY DISAGREE

You are giving a speech next week to the Ladies Auxiliary of St. Joseph. There will be an audience of approximately 50 ladies. Your speech has been rehearsed and studied.

1. You feel jittery, scared, and uncomfortable. 5 4 3 2 1 2. You feel concerned about performing poorly and choking under pressure. 5 4 3 2 1 3. You are worried that the audience will be disappointed with your performance. 5 4 3 2 1 4. You are really nervous and you hope the next week goes by really slow. 5 4 3 2 15. You feel comfortable and secure about giving the speech. 5 4 3 2 1 6. You are hoping that nothing goes wrong with your speech. 5 4 3 2 17. You consider yourself to be an exceptional speaker and are not at all nervous. 5 4 3 2 1

GENDER AGE


APPENDIX B
ScaleRead the situation and apply to it each statement. Decide the extent to which you agree with it. Circle the number for which response is most appropriate for each.

5=STRONGLY AGREE 4=AGREE 3=UNDECIDED 2=DISAGREE 1=STRONGLY DISAGREE

You are giving a speech next week to the Men’s Club of St. Joseph. There will be an audience of approximately 50 men. Your speech has been rehearsed and studied.

1. You feel jittery, scared, and uncomfortable. 5 4 3 2 1 2. You feel concerned about performing poorly and choking under pressure. 5 4 3 2 1 3. You are worried that the audience will be disappointed with your performance. 5 4 3 2 1 4. You are really nervous and you hope the next week goes by really slow. 5 4 3 2 15. You feel comfortable and secure about giving the speech. 5 4 3 2 1 6. You are hoping that nothing goes wrong with your speech. 5 4 3 2 17. You consider yourself to be an exceptional speaker and are not at all nervous. 5 4 3 2 1

GENDER AGE


Figure 1

Submitted 4/30/01 11:18:42 AM
Last Edited 5/1/01 1:08:10 PM
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