When More Equality Means More Differences

When More Equality Means More Differences September 16, 2008

When men and women take personality tests, some of the old Mars-Venus stereotypes keep reappearing. On average, women are more cooperative, nurturing, cautious and emotionally responsive. Men tend to be more competitive, assertive, reckless and emotionally flat. Clear differences appear in early childhood and never disappear.

What’s not clear is the origin of these differences. Evolutionary psychologists contend that these are innate traits inherited from ancient hunters and gatherers. Another school of psychologists asserts that both sexes’ personalities have been shaped by traditional social roles, and that personality differences will shrink as women spend less time nurturing children and more time in jobs outside the home.

To test these hypotheses, a series of research teams have repeatedly analyzed personality tests taken by men and women in more than 60 countries around the world. For evolutionary psychologists, the bad news is that the size of the gender gap in personality varies among cultures. For social-role psychologists, the bad news is that the variation is going in the wrong direction. It looks as if personality differences between men and women are smaller in traditional cultures like India’s or Zimbabwe’s than in the Netherlands or the United States. A husband and a stay-at-home wife in a patriarchal Botswanan clan seem to be more alike than a working couple in Denmark or France. The more Venus and Mars have equal rights and similar jobs, the more their personalities seem to diverge.

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  • ben

    I don’t see why this is at all surprising or unexpected.

    It has long been believed that marriage and the duties of providing for a wife and children has a civilizing and moderating influence on men. It is not surprising therefore when the restricitons that are placed on a man’s behavior by the demands of family life are removed, that he would behave more like a barbarian.

    All these researchers have done is prove what grandma already knew.

  • This is a real shocker. With psyches left to spin out of control by the lack of having to truly get along with each other, men act more like men that don’t need women and women act more like women that don’t need men.

    Maybe somebody could do a study to see how men and women act if they don’t even know the other sex exists. Or we could just agree they would act even more differently and save ourselves the money.