You hear people say it all the time: men should "naturally" be more rational and less sensitive, whereas women's "natural" brain structures wire them for language and empathy. But what if these differences aren't so cut and dry (or even that drastic)? Consider some of these studies:
- Between infancy and first grade, boys express their emotions more passionately than girls.
- Worldwide, boys aren't any better at math than girls.
- Young men are more emotionally vulnerable to troubles in their relationships than young women are.
Florida State researchers found that men between the ages of 18 and 23 were much more likely be emotionally affected by relationship woes than women. The study authors wrote, "For young men, their romantic partners are often their primary source of intimacy," whereas women feel more encouraged to confide deeply with family and friends. Contrary to what every frat joke tells you, men aren't just naturally detached.
- Men are less-rational investors than women.
- Men aren't worse than women at reading emotional cues.
Boys are taught to keep a stiff upper lip, but Harvard med school researchers found that young boys smiled, cried, and laughed more to researchers than girls did. By elementary school, boys become less likely to express sadness or distress, perhaps because of the influence of parenting and culture.
Math scores in 86 countries show that K-12 boys don't significantly do better at math than girls, either in general or at elite levels. And the "math gap" in the US has been closing over time. In the 1970s, the ratio of boys to girls with high math scores on their SATs was 13:1. By the 1990s, it was 3:1.
A study of 35,000 households in MIT's Journal of Economics found that men traded stocks with irrational confidence in their judgment. Single men traded less rationally than married men, and married men traded less rationally than single women.
When asked to correctly identify emotions of people in video clips, men were no less capable of reading nuances in emotions than women were. (Interestingly, parents were much better emotional detectives than nonparents.) So men can read moods, but whether they do anything about this emotional information may be a matter of cultural upbringing, which can change.
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