Gender differences

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A gender difference is a distinction of biological and/or physiological characteristics typically associated with either males or females of a species in general. In the study of humans, socio-political issues arise in classifying whether a sex difference results from the biology of gender. This article focuses on quantitative differences which are based on a gradient and involve different averages. For example, men are taller than women on average, but an individual woman may be taller than an individual man.

Other articles describe differences which clearly (if intersexual individuals are excluded) represent a binary male/female split, such as human reproduction. Though some sex differences are controversial, they are not to be confused with sexist stereotypes.

Gender vs. sex

Gender and sex are not synonyms. While "women" and "men" refer to sex, "feminine" and "masculine" refer to gender. Women, men, male, and female are words that specify sexual identities, which biology determines." [1] However, the gender distinctions of masculine and feminine are based on socially constructed meanings for sex. Julia T. Wood's studies further clarifies how gender is different from sex.

One's sex is determined by genetic codes:

  • One's biological features are programmed by these codes.
  • We use these biological features to classify male and female sex.
  • These features include differences in external genitalia and internal sex organs, hormones, percentage of body fat, muscles, amount of body hair and brain development.
  • Regardless of gender assignment surgery, sex is permanent.
  • Sex is an individual property.

One's gender is more complex than one's sex:

  • Individuals are not born with a gender, only stronger or weaker predispositions for a gender.
  • Sex determines how likely a person is to fit the gender-role, but not a guarantee.
  • The meaning of gender is neither universal nor stable.[1]
  • Gender refers to a culture's meaning for sex.
  • Gender is partially constructed by society, while sex is entirely biological.
  • Each culture prescribes meanings for one's sex, assigning them certain qualities, activities and identities.
  • These meanings are embedded into the fabric of each culture's social life.
  • Each culture perceives these meanings as "natural" or "right".
  • We constantly receive messages within our culture reinforcing these messages.
  • We often adopt the gender that our culture has assigned to us based on our sex.
  • Although it doesn't always happen, these social prescriptions generally succeed to ensure most females will become feminine and most males will become masculine.

Possible causes: some theories

The existence of a gender difference does not necessarily identify whether the trait is due to nature or environment. Some traits are obviously innate (for example, reproductive organs), others obviously environmental (for example, given names), while for others the relationship is either multi-cause or unknown.

From the viewpoint of evolutionary psychology (championed by David Buss, Steven Pinker, Desmond Morris, Daniel Dennett, and others) modern humans have inherited natural traits that were adaptive in a prehistoric environment, including traits that had different advantages for males versus females (see Sexual selection). Evolutionary theory of sex considers gender differences as a result of distinct specialization of the sexes, performing relationship with preceding generations (inheritance) and with the environment (variability).[2] Theory explains ethological and psychological sexual dimorphism, more efficient "education" or "training" of females during the course of ontogenetic adaptation as well as greater conformism of females well known to psychologists.[3][4] Gender role theory and Alice Eagly claims that boys and girls learn the appropriate behavior and attitudes from the family and overall culture they grow up with, and so non-physical gender differences are a product of socialization.

Some feminists see gender differences as caused by patriarchy or discrimination, although difference feminism argues for an acceptance of gender differences. Conservative masculists tend to see gender differences as inherent in human nature, while liberal masculists see gender differences as caused by matriarchy or discrimination.

Traditional Abrahamic religions see gender differences as created by God: "He made them in his image: man and woman He made them" (Genesis 1:27) or, among egalitarian Christians, as being a result of humankind's fall from grace (interpreted from Genesis 3:15-17, Galatians 3:27-28) (see Role of women in Judaism, Christian views of women, Gender roles in Islam).

Physical health

From conception to death, but particularly before adulthood, females are less vulnerable than males to developmental difficulties and chronic illnesses.[2][3] This could be due to females having two x chromosomes instead of just one,[4] or in the reduced exposure to testosterone.[5]


Female brains are more compact than male brains in that, though smaller, they are more densely packed with neurons, particularly in the region responsible for language.[6] Also, females have language functions evenly distributed in both cerebral hemispheres, while in males they are more concentrated in the left hemisphere. This puts males more at risk for language disorders like dyslexia.

It has been argued that the Y chromosome is primarily responsible for males being more susceptible to mental illness' such as Down's syndrome.


In one large scale study, most cognitive abilities and psychological traits showed little or no average difference between the sexes [5]. Where sex differences exist, there is often considerable overlap between the sexes[6]; in addition, it is unclear how many of these differences hold true across different cultures. Nevertheless, certain trends tend to be found.

Personality tests

  • In the big five personality traits, women score higher in Agreeableness (tendency to be compassionate and cooperative) and Neuroticism (tendency to feel anxiety, anger, and depression).[7]
  • Demographics of MBTI surveys indicate that 60-75% of women prefer feeling and 55-80% of men prefer thinking.[8][9]

These tests are also considered by some to be socially biased.


Males are generally more aggressive than females (Coi & Dodge 1997, Maccoby & Jacklin 1974, Buss 2005). There is evidence that males are quicker to aggression (Frey et al. 2003) and more likely than females to express their aggression physically (Bjorkqvist et al. 1994). However, some researchers (such as Rachel Simmons) have suggested that females are not necessarily less aggressive, but that they tend to show their aggression in less overt, less physical ways (Bjorkqvist et al. 1994, Hines and Saudino 2003). For example, females may display more verbal and relational aggression, such as social rejection. High physical aggression has been correlated with high testosterone levels.[citation needed]

Systematizing and empathizing

Females score higher on self-report scales of empathy, on samples ranging from school-age children to adults. Empathy scales include measures of perspective taking, orientation towards another person, empathic concern, and personal distress. However, such measures are subjective and empathy may be more related to gender role rather than sex.[10]

Simon Baron-Cohen's EQ SQ Theory claims that, in general, men are better at systematizing (the desire to analyze and explore systems and rules) and that women are better at empathizing (the ability to identify with other people’s feelings).

More males than females are diagnosed with autism and Asperger syndrome. Cohen believes that autistic individuals and people with Asperger syndrome (AS) are examples of people with an "extreme male brain." People with autism or AS are very strong in systemizing, albeit often in a manner which is hyperfocused, and may even oversimplify more complex systems due to missing certain details. Some people with autism or AS may have impairments in empathy,[11] however, Rogers et al. suggests that one must differentiate between cognitive empathy and affective empathy when regarding people with Asperger syndrome. They suggest that autistic individuals have less ability to ascertain others' feelings, but demonstrate equal empathy when they are aware of others' states of mind. Autistic and AS people actually have a greater response to stress that they witness others experiencing than neurotypical people do.[7]


Many recent studies have concluded that IQ performances of men and women vary little.[8][9][10][11] Other studies show a greater variance in the IQ performance of men compared to that of women, i.e. men are more represented at the extremes of performance, and less represented at the median.[10][12][13]


Masculine and feminine cultures and individuals generally differ in how they communicate with others. For example, feminine people tend to self-disclose more often than masculine people, and in more intimate details. Likewise, feminine people tend to communicate more affection, and with greater intimacy and confidence than masculine people. Generally speaking, feminine people communicate more and prioritize communication more than masculine.

Traditionally, masculine people and feminine people communicate with people of their own gender in different ways. Masculine people form friendships with other masculine people based on common interests, while feminine people build friendships with other feminine people based on mutual support. However, both genders initiate opposite-gender friendships based on the same factors. These factors include proximity, acceptance, effort, communication, common interests, affection and novelty.

Context is very important when determining how we communicate with others. It is important to understand what script it is appropriate to use in each respective relationship. Specifically, understanding how affection is communicated in a given context is extremely important. For example, masculine people expect competition in their friendships. They avoid communicating weakness and vulnerability. They avoid communicating personal and emotional concerns. Masculine people tend to communicate affection by including their friends in activities and exchanging favors. Masculine people tend to communicate with each other shoulder-to-shoulder (i.e. watching sports on a television)[14].

In contrast, feminine people do not mind communicating weakness and vulnerability. In fact, they seek out friendships more in these times. For this reason, feminine people often feel closer to their friends than masculine people do. Feminine people tend to value their friends for listening and communicating non-critically, communicating support, communicating feelings of enhances self-esteem, communicating validation, offering comfort and contributing to personal growth. Feminine people tend to communicate with each other face-to-face (i.e. meeting together to talk over lunch).

Communicating with a friend of the opposite gender is often difficult because of the fundamentally different scripts that masculine people and feminine people use in their friendships. Another challenge in these relationships is that masculine people associate physical contact with communicating sexual desire more than feminine people. Masculine people also desire sex in their opposite-gender relationships more than feminine people. This presents serious challenges in cross-gender friendship communication. In order to overcome these challenges, the two parties must communicate openly about the boundaries of the relationship.

Communication and gender cultures

A communication culture is a group of people with an existing set of norms regarding how they communicate with each other. These cultures can be categorized as masculine or feminine. Other communication cultures include African Americans, older people, Indian Native Americans, gay men, lesbians, and people with disabilities.[1] Gender cultures are primarily created and sustained by interaction with others. Through communication we learn about what qualities and activities our culture prescribes to our sex.

While it is commonly believed that our sex is the root source of differences and how we relate and communicate to others, it is actually gender that plays a larger role. [1] Whole cultures can be broken down into masculine and feminine, each differing in how they get along with others through different styles of communication. Julia T. Wood's studies explain that "communication produces and reproduces cultural definitions of masculinity and femininity." [1] Masculine and feminine cultures differ dramatically in when, how and why they use communication. In order to communicate effectively across cultures and genders, we must bridge these communication gaps.

Communication styles

Deborah Tannen’s studies found these gender differences in communication styles: [15]

  • Masculine people tend to talk more than feminine people in public situations, but feminine people tend to talk more than masculine people at home.
  • Feminine people are more inclined to face each other and make eye contact when talking, while masculine people are more likely to look away from each other.
  • Masculine people tend to jump from topic to topic, but feminine people tend to talk at length about one topic.
  • When listening, women make more noises such as “mm-hmm” and “uh-huh”, while masculine people are more likely to listen silently.
  • Feminine people are inclined to express agreement and support, while masculine people are more inclined to debate.

The studies also reported that in general both genders communicated in similar ways. Critics, including Suzette Haden Elgin, have suggested that Tannen's findings may apply more to feminine people of certain specific cultural and economic groups than to feminine people in general. Although it is widely believed that feminine people speak far more words than masculine people, this is actually not the case.

Julia T. Wood [1] describes how "differences between gender cultures infuse communication." These differences begin at childhood. Maltz and Borker’s [16] research showed that the games children play contribute to socializing children into masculine and feminine cultures. For example, girls playing house promotes personal relationships, and playing house does not necessarily have fixed rules or objectives. Boys, however, tended to play more competitive team sports with different goals and strategies. These differences as children make feminine people operate from assumptions about communication and use rules for communication that differ significantly from those endorsed by most masculine people. Wood produced the following theories regarding gender communication:

  • Misunderstandings stem from differing interaction styles
  • Masculine and feminine people have different ways of showing support, interest and caring
  • Masculine and feminine people often perceive the same message in different ways
  • Feminine people tend to see communication more as a way to connect and enhance the sense of closeness in the relationship
  • Masculine people see communication more as a way to accomplish objectives
  • Feminine people give more response cues and nonverbal cues to indicate interest and build a relationship
  • Masculine people use feedback to signal actual agreement and disagreement
  • For feminine people, "ums" "uh-huhs" and "yeses" simply mean they are showing interest and being responsive
  • For masculine people, these same responses indicate is agreement or disagreement with what is being communicated
  • For feminine people, talking is the primary way to become closer to another person
  • For masculine people, shared goals and accomplishing tasks is the primary way to become close to another person
  • Masculine people are more likely to express caring by doing something concrete for or doing something together with another person
  • Feminine people can avoid being hurt by masculine people by realizing how men communicate caring
  • Masculine people can avoid being hurt by feminine people by realizing how women communicate caring
  • Feminine people who want to express caring to men can do so more effectively by doing something for them or doing something with them
  • Masculine people who want to express caring to feminine people can do so more effectively by verbally communicating that they care
  • Masculine people emphasize independence and are therefor less likely to ask for help in accomplishing an objective
  • Masculine people are much less likely to ask for directions when they are lost than feminine people
  • Masculine people desire to maintain autonomy and to not appear weak or incompetent
  • Feminine people develop identity within relationships more than masculine people
  • Feminine people seek out and welcome relationships with others more than masculine people
  • Masculine people tend to think that relationships jeopardize their independence
  • For feminine people, relationships are a constant source of interest, attention and communication
  • For masculine people, relationships are not as central
  • The term "Talking about us" means very different things to masculine and feminine people
  • Masculine people feel that there is no need to talk about a relationship that is going well
  • Feminine people feel that a relationship is going well as long as they are talking about it
  • Feminine people can avoid being hurt by realizing that masculine people don't necessarily feel the need to talk about a relationship that is going well
  • Masculine people can help improve communication in a relationship by applying the rules of feminine communication
  • Feminine people can help improve communication in a relationship by applying the rules of masculine communication
  • Just as Western communication rules wouldn't necessarily apply in an Asian culture, masculine rules wouldn't necessarily apply in a feminine culture, and vice verse.

Finally, Wood describes how different genders can communicate to one another and provides six suggestions to do so.

  1. Individuals should suspend judgment. When a person finds his or herself confused in a cross-gender conversation, he or she should resist the tendency to judge and instead explore what is happening and how that person and their partner might better understand each other.
  2. Recognize the validity of different communication styles. Feminine tendency to emphasize relationships, feelings and responsiveness does not reflect inability to adhere to masculine rules for competing any more than masculine stress on instrumental outcomes is a failure to follow feminine rules for sensitivity to others. Wood says that it is inappropriate to apply a single criterion - either masculine or feminine - to both genders' communication. Instead, people must realize that different goals, priorities and standards pertain to each.
  3. Provide translation cues. Following the previous suggestions helps individuals realize that masculine and feminine people tend to learn different rules for interaction and that it makes sense to think about helping the other gender translate your communication. This is especially important because there is no reason why one gender should automatically understand the rules that are not part of his or her gender culture.
  4. Seek translation cues. Interactions can also be improved by seeking translation cues from others. Taking constructive approaches to interactions can help improve the opposite gender culture's reaction.
  5. Enlarge your own communication style. By studying other culture's communication we learn not only about other cultures, but also about ourselves. Being open to learning and growing can enlarge one's own communication skills by incorporating aspects of communication emphasized in other cultures. According to Wood, individuals socialized into masculinity could learn a great deal from feminine culture about how to support friends. Likewise, feminine cultures could expand the ways they experience intimacy by appreciating "closeness in doing" that is a masculine specialty.
  6. Wood reiterates again, as her sixth suggestion, that individuals should suspend judgment. This concept is incredibly important because judgment is such a part of Western culture that it is difficult not to evaluate and critique others and defend our own positions. While gender cultures are busy judging other gender cultures and defending themselves, they are making no headway in communicating effectively. So, suspending judgment is the first and last principle for effective cross-gender communication.

Communication and sexual desire

Mets, et al. [17] explain that sexual desire is linked to emotions and communicative expression. Communication is central in expressing sexual desire and "complicated emotional states," and is also the "mechanism for negotiating the relationship implications of sexual activity and emotional meanings." Gender differences appear to exist in communicating sexual desire.

For example, masculine people are generally perceived to be more interested in sex than feminine people, and research suggests that masculine people are more likely than feminine people to express their sexual interest. This can be attributed to masculine people being less inhibited by social norms for expressing their desire, being more aware of their sexual desire or succumbing to the expectation of their gender culture. When feminine people employ tactics to show their sexual desire, they are typically more indirect in nature.

Various studies show different communication strategies with a feminine person refusing a masculine person's sexual interest. Some research, like that of Murnen, [18] show that when feminine people offer refusals, the refusals are verbal and typically direct. When masculine people do not comply with this refusal, feminine people offer stronger and more direct refusals. However, research from Perper and Weis [19]showed that rejection includes acts of avoidance, creating distractions, making excuses, departure, hinting, arguments to delay, etc. These differences in refusal communication techniques are just one example of the importance of communicative competence for both masculine and feminine gender cultures.



In many countries, there is a gender income gap which favors males in the labor market. For example, the median full-time salary for U.S. women is 77% of that of U.S. men. Several factors other than discrimination may contribute to this gap. On average, women are more likely than men to consider factors other than pay when looking for work, and may be less willing to travel or relocate.[20][21] Thomas Sowell, in his book Knowledge and Decisions, claims that this difference is due to women not taking jobs due to marriage or pregnancy, but income studies show that does not explain the entire difference. Men are far more likely to engage in dangerous occupations which often pay more than positions desired and sought by women.[22] The U.S. Census's report on the wage gap reported "When we account for difference between male and female work patterns as well as other key factors, women earned, on average, 80 percent of what men earned in 2000… Even after accounting for key factors that affect earnings, our model could not explain all of the differences in earnings between men and women."[23] The income gap in other countries ranges from 53% in Botswana to -40% in Bahrain.[24]

In the United States, among women and men who never marry or have children, women make more than men.[20] Additionally, women who work part-time make more on average than men who work part-time.[25]


According to a 2004 report by the US department of labor [12]:

  • 52.9% of American women are in the labor force versus 73.3% of men.
  • 70.7% of women with children under 18 are in the workforce (up from 47% in 1975), compared with 94% of men with children under 18.
  • Approximately 26 percent of employed women usually work part time, compared with about 11 percent of employed men.
  • 5.6% of employed women and 8% of men are self-employed.
  • Women in nonagricultural industries work 35.9 hours per week versus 41.6 hours for men.
  • Women account for more than half of all workers in the following industries: financial activities, education services, healthcare, leisure and hospitality, and office and administrative support. Women are far more likely than men to be social workers, paralegals and legal assistants, teachers, nurses, speech pathologists, dental hygienists, maids and housekeeping cleaners, and childcare workers.
  • More men than women work in the following industries: mining, construction, transportation and utilities, farming, computer and mathematical occupations, engineering, and architecture. Men are more likely than women to be chief executives, firefighters, police and patrol officers, electricians, dentists, and surgeons.

Occupational death

The majority of occupational deaths occur among men. In one U.S. study, 93% of deaths on the job involved men, with a death rate approximately 11 times higher than women. The industries with the highest death rates are mining, agriculture, forestry, fishing, and construction, all of which employ more men than women.[13]

Parental leave

Most countries require companies to grant maternity leave for working women at full pay for usually at least 12 weeks, although paternity leave is not available to the same extent. In Israel parents can use parental leave as they see fit, dividing the 12 weeks among themselves if necessary regardless of sex. In Sweden there are equal opportunities to take maternity/paternity leave. The duration is 18 months per child with 80% of full pay. Each parent must be at home minimum 60 days to qualify for the maximum pay.


Insurance companies often charge different rates for men and women:

  • Health insurance is less expensive for young and middle aged men.[citation needed]
  • Automobile insurance companies charge more for teenage boys than their female counterparts.
  • Life insurance is higher for males than for females.

Consumer behaviour

Price discrimination can favour either men or women. For example, some night clubs offer discounts or free entry for women, while some hairdressers offer cheaper haircuts for men.

According to a 2000 report, women purchase or influence the purchase of 80% of all consumer goods and influence 80% of health-care decisions.[14]


Stereotypes create expectations regarding emotional expression and emotional reaction. Many studies find that emotional stereotypes and the display of emotions "correspond to actual gender differences in experiencing emotion and expression."[15]

Stereotypes generally dictate how and by whom and when it is socially acceptable to display an emotion. Reacting in a stereotype-consistent manner may result in social approval while reacting in a stereotype-inconsistent manner could result in disapproval. It should be noted that what is socially acceptable varies substantially over time and between local cultures and subcultures.

According to Niedenthal et al.:[16]

  • Women are more emotionally expressive.
  • Women are more emotionally responsive.
  • Women are more empathetic.
  • Women are more sensitive to others' feelings.
  • Women are more obsessed with having children.
  • Women express their feelings without constraint, except for the emotion of anger.
  • Women pay more attention to body language.
  • Women judge emotions from nonverbal communication better than men do.
  • Women express more love, fear, and sadness.
  • Women laugh, gaze, and smile more.
  • Women anticipate negative consequences for expressing anger and aggression.
  • Men are more obsessed with sex
  • Men are overwhelmed by women's expressions of emotion.
  • Men express more anger.
  • Men control their feelings.
  • Men restrain from expressing their feelings.
  • Men are stoic.
  • Men show emotion to communicate dominance.

Experience and expression

When measured with an affect intensity measure, women reported greater intensity of both positive and negative affect than men. Women also reported a more intense and more frequent experience of affect, joy, and love. Women also reported a more intense and more frequent experience of embarrassment, guilt, shame, sadness, anger, fear, and distress. Experiencing pride was more frequent and intense for men than for women.[17]

Men and women use different cognitive strategies when coping with emotional situations. Women are more prone to depression because of their tendency to dwell on the causes of negative emotions while men distract themselves from dwelling on these emotions.[18]

Women have a greater affect intensity, which makes them more prone to "self-referring, overgeneralizing, and selective attention to emotional information, which may lead to more intense emotional reactions." (282)[19][20] Women also have a tendency to catch others' emotions, known as emotional contagion.[21]

Heuristic devices

When lacking substantial emotion information they can base judgments on, people tend to rely more on gender stereotypes. Results from a study conducted by Robinson and colleagues[22] showed that participants relied more on stereotypes when imagining the average man or woman's emotional reaction than when imagining their own emotional reaction. The study also showed that when placed in the same situation men and women experience parallel emotions.

Some observers were placed in a hypothetical situation. These observers believed that male players would display more masculine emotions while female players expressed feminine emotions. The observers that watched an actual game failed to evaluate the female and male players' emotions differently.

The findings of this study imply gender stereotypes as more influential when judging others' emotions in a hypothetical situation. Also, with minimal or no available relevant emotional information, men and women depend on gender stereotypes to fill in lacking information.

Context also determines a man or woman's emotional behavior. Context-based emotion norms, such as feeling rules or display rules, "prescribe emotional experience and expressions in specific situations like a wedding or a funeral," (290)[23] independent of the person's gender. In situations like a wedding or a funeral, the activated emotion norms apply to and constrain every person in the situation. Gender differences are more pronounced when situational demands are very small or non-existent as well as ambiguous situations. During these situations, gender norms "are the default option that prescribes emotional behavior." (291)[24]

Decoding emotion

Decoding can be defined as a "capacity to judge, to interpret and to identify others' emotions from nonverbal cues." (295)[25] Typically, women are more accurate in decoding nonverbal cues' emotional meaning than men.[26] [27] [28] [29] Developmental research suggests that a woman's ability to identify another's emotion is not innate but instead caused by the socialization process.


  • In 1980, 3- to 5-year-old children and adults identified the sex of “gender-neutral puppy dogs depicting happy, angry, fearful, and sad emotions”[26] for Birnbaum and colleagues. This experiment measured the children’s and adult’s stereotypes concerning sex differences in emotional expression. Both children and adults attributed the happy-, sad- and fearful-looking puppies with the female sex and the angry-looking puppies with the male sex.
  • A Cambridge University lab showed that at birth girls gaze longer at a face, whereas suspended mechanical mobiles, rather than a face, keep boys' attention for longer. The Cambridge team also found that the amount of eye contact children make is partially determined by prenatal testosterone, a biological factor. [27]
  • Studies that measure facial expression by the use of electromyography recordings show that women are more adequately able to manipulate their facial expressions than men. Men, however can inhibit their expressions better than females when cued to do so. In the observer ratings women’s facial expressions are easier to read as opposed to men’s except for the expression of anger.[28]
  • According to a study done by Hall and Matsumoto, “women are more accurate than men in judging emotional meaning from nonverbal cues even under situations of minimal stimulus information.”[29]
  • In a study where researchers wanted to concentrate on nonverbal expressions by just looking at the eyebrows, lips, and the eyes, participants read certain cue cards that were either negative or positive and recorded the responses. In the results of this experiment it is shown that feminine emotions happen more frequently and have a higher intensity in women than men. In relation to the masculine emotions, such as anger, the results are flipped and the women’s frequency and intensity is lower than the men’s.[30]
  • In imagined frightening situations, such as being home alone and witnessing a stranger walking towards your house, women reported greater fear. Women also reported more fear in situations that involved "a male's hostile and aggressive behavior" (281)[31] In anger-eliciting situations, women communicated more intense feelings of anger than men. Women also reported more intense feelings of anger in relation to terrifying situations, especially situations involving a male protagonist.[32]

Emotion, gender, and culture

A number of studies have been conducted in western cultures for the most part, specifically North America and Western Europe. Most of the research has indicated that sex differences in expressing emotion tend to be greater in North America than in other cultures, particularly Asian culture.

Culture impacts gender differences in the expression of emotions. This may be partly explained by the different social roles men and women have in different cultures, and by the status and power men and women hold in different societies, as well as the different cultural values various societies hold.[33]


A commentary released by Pew Research Center addressed some questions about the way men and women view their lives:[34]

  • Overall, women claim to be far happier than men with their lives, and reported more often that they had made personal progress in the last five years.
  • Women show greater concern about family and home life issues, while men express more concern about political issues. Men are happier with their family life and more optimistic about their personal future and that of their children.

Problems with research

Studies of psychological gender differences are controversial and subject to error. Many small-scale studies report differences that are not repeated in larger studies. Self-report questionnaires are subject to bias, particularly if the subjects are told that the questionnaire is testing for gender roles. It is also possible that commentators may exaggerate or downplay differences for ideological reasons.


Worldwide, men are more likely to be literate, with 100 men considered literate for every 88 women. In some countries the difference is even greater; for example, in Bangladesh only 62 women are literate for every 100 men.[35]

In an OECD study of 43 developed countries, 15-year-old girls were ahead of boys in literacy skills and were more confident than boys about getting high-income jobs.[36]. In the United States, girls are significantly ahead of boys in writing ability at all levels of primary and secondary education.[30] However, boys are slightly ahead of girls in mathematics ability.[31]

In some countries within the last generation, there has been a significant increase in women accessing tertiary education compared to men. In the United States in 2005-2006, women earned more Associate's, Bachelor's, and Master's degrees than men, but men earned more Doctorates.[32] This is repeated in other countries; for example, women make up 58% of admissions in the UK[37] and 60% in Iran[38].


In western countries, males are much more likely to die by suicide than females (usually by a factor of 3–4:1); 69 out of 74 non-western countries found an excess male mortality from suicide.

While there are more completed male suicides than female, females are more likely to attempt suicide. One possible explanation is that males tend to use more immediately lethal methods than females, who use less violent methods while attempting suicide. Another theory is that females are more likely to use self-harm as a cry for help or attention while males are more likely to genuinely want to end their lives.[citation needed]

American males between the ages of 20 and 24 have a suicide rate that is seven times higher than that of women. [33]


Men are much more likely to be incarcerated than women, although women are a fast-growing demographic group in prison.[39] Males are more likely than females to commit murder.[40] Men are also far more likely than women to be the victims of violent crime.[41]

Internet issues

Internet use

In an American study in 2005, the percentage of men using the Internet was very slightly ahead of the percentage of women, although this difference reversed in those under 30. Men logged on more often, spend more time online, and are more likely to be broadband users, whereas women tended to make more use of opportunities to communicate (such as email). Men were more likely to use the Internet to pay bills, participate in auctions, and for recreation such as downloading music and videos. Men and women were equally likely to use the Internet for shopping and banking.[42]

More recent studies indicate that in 2008, women significantly outnumbered men on most social networking sites, such as Facebook and Myspace, although the ratios varied with age.[ Rapleaf Study on Social Network Users] In addition, women watched more streaming content, whereas men downloaded more.[ Entrepreneur, study into men and women's use of technology] In terms of blogs, men were more likely to blog in the first place; among those who blog, men were more likely to have a professional blog, whereas women were more likely to have a personal blog. [ Technorati study into the blogosphere]

Gender-related preferences in web site design

A study was performed at the University of Maryland in 2007[citation needed] which was designed to determine gender differences in preference for various aspects of web site design. Previous studies, in particular one performed at the University of Glamorgan Key website research highlights gender bias, indicated measurable differences between men and women, with each gender tending to prefer sites designed by their own gender. Women showed a preference for pages with more color in the background and typeface, and more rounded shapes. Women also favored informal rather than posed pictures. Men responded better to dark colors and a more linear design. They also were more pleased by a three-dimensional look and images of “self-propelling” rather than stationary objects. The Maryland study sought to confirm these differences.

The subjects were given pairs of web sites to visit and were asked to fill out a short questionnaire immediately afterward. The questionnaires asked simple questions about their reaction to the colors, graphics, site organization as well as an open-ended question in which they were asked to describe their subjective impressions of the sites. Web sites were selected to present significant design dissimilarities so as to assess differences in site design preference. One pair was specifically selected because the sites themselves were targeted at male and female users respectively.

The results generally supported earlier research. Women showed a distinct preference for more color and graphics. In addition, while the object scores for the male and female-targeted sites were not significantly different, women showed a significantly higher preference for the female-targeted site. However, it is clear from the responses to the open-ended questions that site content was a significant factor in determine preference for one site over another. It is therefore suggested that in any future study real web sites not be used, but instead neutral-content sites should be designed with variations in style, to eliminate the bias introduced by the site content.

Marriage and sexuality

Dating and marriage customs are dependent on culture and differ greatly across countries and even in subcultures within the same country. For example, many marriages in India are arranged, whereas in the Western World most people choose their own partners. In most societies, men are generally expected to play the more active role in the early stages of courtship, for example in asking the woman for a date.

Age at first marriage

Men are older, on average, when they marry.

Sexual orientation

The demographics of sexual orientation in any population is difficult to establish with reasonable accuracy. However, most surveys find that a greater proportion of men than women report that they are exclusively homosexual, whereas more women than men report being bisexual. [34]

Studies have shown that heterosexual men are only aroused by images of women, whereas some women who claim to be heterosexual are aroused by images of both men and women. [35] However, it's not an apples-to-apples comparison, since different methods are required to measure arousal for the anatomy of a man versus that of a woman.

Numbers of unmarried people

In the USA, single men are greatly outnumbered by single women at a ratio of 100 single women to every 86 single men [43], though never-married men over age 15 outnumber women by a 5:4 ratio (33.9% to 27.3%) according to the 2006 US Census American Community Survey. This very much depends on age group, with 118 single men per 100 single women in their 20s, versus 33 single men to 100 single women over 65.[44]

The numbers are different in other countries. For example, China has many more young men than young women, and this disparity is expected to increase.[45] In regions with recent conflict such as Chechnya, women may greatly outnumber men.[46]

Choosing a partner

In a cross-cultural study by David Buss, men and women were asked to rank certain traits in order of importance in a long-term partner. Both men and women ranked "kindness" and "intelligence" as the two most important factors. Men valued beauty and youth more highly than women, while women valued financial and social status more highly than men.[47]


  • Men's orgasm is nearly essential ("nearly" as small groups of sperm can escape the penis before orgasm is reached) for reproduction, whereas female orgasm is not. The female orgasm was believed to have no obvious function other than to be pleasurable although recent evidence suggests that it may have evolved as a discriminatory advantage in regards to mate selection. Psychology Today, The Orgasm Wars
  • According to Kinsey, for about 75% of all males, orgasm is possible to be attained within the first four minutes after initiation of sexual intercourse. For women the average time to reach orgasm is between 10 and 20 minutes. The swiftness of the male system virtually guarantees climactic orgasms for males (except for those experiencing delayed ejaculation) but is usually too quick to give the female a penetration-induced orgasm.[citation needed] However, the average time to female orgasm via masturbation is significantly less at four minutes [citation needed] [48] [49].
  • Male circumcision (removal of the foreskin) does not prevent the ability to orgasm, but female circumcision usually does. However, the two procedures are not directly comparable; in particular, the phrase "female circumcision" is used to refer to a wide variety of different practices, from minor ritual cuts to the labia (which are much less likely to impede orgasm) to complete excision of the outer clitoris.

See also


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Further reading

  • Roy Baumeister (2007). Is There Anything Good In Men?
  • Deaux, K. (1993). Commentary: Sorry, wrong number – A reply to Gentile’s call. Psychological Science, 4, 125-126
  • Geary, D. C. (2006). Sex differences in social behavior and cognition: The utility of sexual selection for hypothesis generation. Hormones and Behavior, 49, 273-275. Full text
  • The Sexual Paradox: Extreme Men, Gifted Women and the Real Gender Gap / Susan Pinker (2008) ISBN 0679314156
  • Shields, S. A. (2000). Thinking about gender, thinking about theory: Gender and emotional experience. In A. Fischer (Ed.), Gender and emotion: Social Psychological perspectives (pp. 3–23). London: Cambridge University Press.
  • Shields, S. A. (2002). Speaking from the heart: Gender and the social meaning of emotion. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.


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