“Real men” need keepsakes too: both Italian men and women use inanimate objects to cope with separation
More details
Hide details
SWPS University of Social Sciences and Humanities, Sopot, Poland
University of L’Aquila, L’Aquila, Italy
Aleksandra Niemyjska
Aleksandra Niemyjska, Ph.D., SWPS University of Social Sciences and Humanities, 16/20 Polna Str., 81-745 Sopot, Poland
Submission date: 2021-04-06
Final revision date: 2021-06-16
Acceptance date: 2021-06-28
Online publication date: 2021-07-28
Publication date: 2022-04-29
Current Issues in Personality Psychology 2023;11(1):39–47
Using tangible objects to alleviate distress contradicts the traditional masculinity that is stereotypically attributed to Italian men. This study tested whether the willingness to use a photograph of a romantic partner as a substitute for that person and as a cue for nostalgia in the situation of unavoidable separation depends on gender and conformity to the traditional masculine norms of Italian adults.

Participants and procedure:
The study involved 119 Italian adults. Participants were randomly assigned to the separation or the connection condition. Next, they described the willingness to use a photograph of their partner as a substitute and as a cue for nostalgia; then we measured men’s differences in their conformity to masculine norms.

We did not find support for the hypotheses that gender or traditional masculine norms impede using inanimate objects to regulate emotions.

It is worth considering photographs as reminders of social bonds that are accessible for both men and women.

Abeyta, A. A., Routledge, C., & Juhl, J. (2015). Looking back to move forward: Nostalgia as a psychological resource for promoting relationship goals and overcoming relationship challenges. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 109, 1029–1044.
Blazina, C., & Watkins, C. E., Jr. (2000). Separation/individuation, parental attachment, and male gender role conflict: Attitudes toward the feminine and the fragile masculine self. Psychology of Men & Masculinity, 1, 126–132.
Bowlby, J. (1997). Attachment and loss. Vol. 1. Attachment. Pimlico.
Gardner, W., Pickett, C., & Knowles, M. (2005). Social snacking and shielding. Using social symbols, selves, and surrogates in the service of belonging needs. In K. D. Williams, J. P. Forgas, & W. von Hippel (Eds.), The social outcast: Ostracism, social exclusion, rejection, and bullying (pp. 227–241). Psychology Press.
Kring, A. M., & Gordon, A. H. (1998). Sex differences in emotion: Expression, experience, and physiology. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 74, 686–703.
Mahalik, J. R., Locke, B. D., Ludlow, L. H., Diemer, M. A., Scott, R. P. J., Gottfried, M., & Freitas, G. (2003). Development of the Conformity to Masculine Norms Inventory. Psychology of Men & Masculinity, 4, 3–25.
Mahalik, J. R., Morray, E. B., Coonerty-Femiano, A., Ludlow, L. H., Slattery, S. M., & Smiler, A. (2005). Development of the conformity to feminine norms inventory. Sex Roles, 52, 417–435.
Niemyjska, A. (2019). When do keepsakes keep us together? The effect of separation from a partner on directing attachment to inanimate objects. Personal Relationships, 6, 262–285.
Niemyjska, A., Bazińska, R., & Drat-Ruszczak, K. (2020). Hunting lovers: Narcissists keep trophies from their past relationships. Personality and Individual Differences, 163, 110060.
Niemyjska, A., & Parzuchowski, M. (2020). You make all things special: Developing a scale to measure sympathetic magic in romantic relationships. Current Psychology, 39, 1635–1647.
O’Neil, J. M., Helms, B. J., Gable, R. K., David, L., & Wrightsman, L. S. (1986). Gender-Role Conflict Scale: College men’s fear of femininity. Sex Roles, 14, 335–350.
Palgi, Y., Shrira, A., Ring, L., Bodner, E., Avidor, S., Bergman, Y., Cohen-Fridel, S., Keisari, S., & Hoffman, Y. (2020). The loneliness pandemic: Loneliness and other concomitants of depression, anxiety and their comorbidity during the COVID-19 outbreak. Journal of Affective Disorders, 275, 109–111.
Parent, M. C., & Moradi, B. (2009). Confirmatory factor analysis of the Conformity to Masculine Norms Inventory and development of the CMNI‐46. Psychology of Men & Masculinity, 10, 175–189.
Pompper, D. (2010). Masculinities, the metrosexual, and media images: Across dimensions of age and ethnicity. Sex Roles, 63, 682–696.
Steptoe, A., Shankar, A., Demakakos, P., & Wardle, J. (2013). Social isolation, loneliness, and all-cause mortality in older men and women. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 110, 5797–5801.
Tager, D., & Good, G. E. (2005). Italian and American masculinities: a comparison of masculine gender role norms. Psychology of Men & Masculinity, 6, 264–274.
Wildschut, T., Sedikides, C., Arndt, J., & Routledge, C. (2006). Nostalgia: Content, triggers, functions. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 91, 975–993.
Wildschut, T., Sedikides, C., Routledge, C., Arndt, J., & Cordaro, F. (2010). Nostalgia as a repository of social connectedness: The role of attachment-related avoidance. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 98, 573–586.
Zhou, X., Sedikides, C., Wildschut, C., & Gao, D. G. (2008). Counteracting loneliness: On the restorative function of nostalgia. Psychological Science, 19, 1023–1029.
Copyright: © Institute of Psychology, University of Gdansk This is an Open Access journal, all articles are distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International (CC BY-NC-SA 4.0) License (, allowing third parties to copy and redistribute the material in any medium or format and to remix, transform, and build upon the material, provided the original work is properly cited and states its license.