Are Women Really More “Emotional” than Men?

Self-reports suggest that women experience feelings more intensely than do men (e.g., Brody & Hall, 1993; Diener, Sandvik, & Larsen, 1985; LaFrance & Banaji, 1992).

Physiological assessments of emotion suggest a similar conclusion, although the findings here are not as clear (e.g., Grossman & Wood, 1993).

There are also consistent sex differences in the expression of emotions.
More than men, women display warmth, happiness, shame, guilt, fear, and nervousness;
More than women, men display anger, pride, and contempt (Brody & Hall, 1993; Coats & Feldman, 1996).

Finally, women are generally better than men at interpreting emotional expressions on other people’s faces (Hall, 1978, 1984), although some interesting findings suggest that men may be somewhat better at identifying anger, particularly in other men (Rotter & Rotter, 1988; Wagner, MacDonald, & Manstead, 1986).

So it seems, to an extent, women really are more emotional than men. The important question is why…

In evolution, the female’s role has been to give birth and raise the children. It would thus have been quite adaptive for women in particular be sensitive to emotions in order to aid better bonding with the offspring.
In contrast, the traditional male contribution in evolution was for practical things like finding food, water, shelter, and providing protection. It would thus have been most adaptive for men to develop an affective repertoire that emphasizes toughness and minimizes vulnerability, thereby increasing
their chances of successfully acquiring the status and the resources needed to attract mates and provide for their offspring.

We should remember, though, that each of us experiences a wide range of feelings, and that the overlap of male and female experiences is large. Moreover, some women are less emotional than most men, whereas some men are more emotional than most women. Nonetheless, there is a case in which our stereotypes do contain some truth.


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