Study: Italian stereotypes might fit Americans

A survey dealing with masculine attitudes debunks myths about Italian men.
Thursday, June 30, 2005 | 12:00 a.m. CDT; updated 3:24 a.m. CDT, Sunday, July 20, 2008

From Don Corleone to Rocky Balboa, the popular portrayal of Italian and Italian-American men can be less than flattering. Think sleeveless T-shirts, gold chains and hot tempers.

Fuhgedaboutit? Forget about it.

A new study by two MU researchers suggests that Italian males — as in Italy, not the Bronx — are more likely to be taking their cues from Hugh Hefner than Tony Soprano.

The study, scheduled to appear in the October issue of Psychology of Men and Masculinity, examined cross-cultural differences between Italian and American men, said Glenn Good, an associate professor of educational and counseling psychology.

“It’s my hope that this study will encourage social scientists and societies to better understand the beliefs about masculinity that they hold,” Good said.

Good and graduate student David Tager surveyed 152 Italian male students from universities in Palermo and Rome about their views regarding 11 masculine norms. They tested the strength of characteristics such as those associated with the “Don Giovanni” stereotypes like dominance, risk taking and power over women. They also surveyed the students’ perceptions of themselves and their relationships with others.

Italian students demonstrated significantly fewer traditional attitudes on nine out of the 11 characteristics compared to 752 American male students previously surveyed using the same character traits, Good said.

The students did show a higher endorsement of the “playboy” characteristic, suggesting Italian males place more importance on their number of sexual partners than Americans males.

Good said the study was designed to shed light on our perceptions of other cultures.

“If Americans tend to ridicule, make fun of or put down Italian men for beliefs that are really true of themselves, that might be worth taking a note of,” he said.

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