“Let me give you a tip on a clue to men’s characters: the man who damns money has obtained it dishonorably; the man who respects it has earned it.”
― Ayn Rand, Atlas Shrugged
Twenty-five years after the bestseller’s release, “Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus,” the debate over how and why men and women are different and what that means for their roles in society is far from settled. A new Pew Research Center survey finds that most Americans say men and women are different in expressing their feelings, physical abilities, interests, and approaches to parenting. But there is no public consensus on the origins of these differences. While women who perceive differences attribute them to societal expectations, men tend to point to biological differences.
When asked in an open-ended question what traits society values most in men and women, the differences were also striking. Top responses about women related to physical attractiveness percentage (35%) or nurturing and empathy (30%). For men, one-third pointed to honesty and morality, while about one-in-five mentioned professional or financial success (23%), ambition or leadership (19%), strength or toughness (19%), and a good work ethic (18%). Far fewer cite these as examples of what society values most in women.
A qualitative test with nearly 200 men asked to list some traits and characteristics that come to mind when they think of a manly or masculine man, almost 200 women who asked what comes to mind when they think of a womanly or feminine. While these terms can have different meanings for different people, the qualitative testing revealed that respondents tended to associate “manly or masculine” with a standard set of descriptions related to strength, confidence, and specific physical traits. Some commonly used words included “strong,” “assertive,” “muscular,” “confident,” “a deep voice,” and “facial hair.” When it comes to traits and characteristics used to describe women who are “womanly or feminine,” some frequently used terms included “grace” or “graceful,” “beauty” or “beautiful,” “caring,” and “nurturing.” Many people also mentioned wearing makeup and dresses.
There are critical demographic and political fault lines that cut across some of these views. Just as Republicans and Democrats divided their views on gender equality, they have divergent opinions about why men and women are different in various dimensions. Attitudes on gender issues also often differ by education, race, and generation.
Similarly, Democrats and Democratic-leaning independents are far more likely than Republicans and those who lean to the GOP to say gender differences based on societal expectations rather than biological differences between men and women. About two-thirds of Democrats who say men and women are different in expressing their feelings, their approach to parenting, and their hobbies and personal interests say these differences are rooted in societal expectations. Among their Republican counterparts, about four-in-ten or fewer share those views.
While most Americans see gender differences across various realms, one area where they see more similarities is at work: 63% say men and women are similar when it comes to the things they are good at achieving. In contrast, 37% say they are mostly different. Men and women express similar views on this.
Among Democrats, there is a clear sense that men and women are similar when it comes to the things they are good at in the workplace: 69% say this is the case, while 30% say men and women are different in this regard. While Republicans are more divided, more see similarities (55%) than differences (44%) in the things men and women are good at in the workplace.
While the question asked about pressures men face in general, it is possible that respondents were drawing on their or their friends’ personal experiences when answering.
About six-in-ten Democrats and Democratic-leaning independents (58%) say most people in our society these days look up to men who are manly or masculine. In comparison, 4% say community looks down on these men, and 37% say it neither looks up to nor down on them. Among Republicans and those who lean to the Republican Party, 47% say society looks up to masculine men; 12% say community looks down on them, and 41% say neither answer applies.
Men and women give similar answers when asked to describe themselves in terms of their masculinity or femininity. About three-in-ten men (31%) say they are very manly or masculine, while 54% describe themselves as somewhat masculine, and 15% say they are not too or not at all male. Among women, 32% say they are very womanly or feminine; 54% say they are somewhat feminine, and 14% say they are not too or not at all feminine.
Black men are more likely than white men to say they are very masculine, and the same pattern holds for women. About half of black men (49%) and black women (47%) describe themselves as either very masculine or very feminine, compared with (28%) of white men who say they are very masculine and 27% of white women see themselves as very feminine. While about a third of men and women without a four-year college degree say they are very masculine or feminine (34% each), smaller shares of those who have a bachelor’s degree or more education describe themselves this way (22% and 24%, respectively).
Among men, Republicans are more likely than Democrats to say they are very manly or masculine: 39% of Republican men – vs. 23% of their Democratic counterparts – describe themselves this way. And while 21% of Democratic men say they are not too masculine, just 8% of Republican men say the same. Views are more uniform across party lines when it comes to how women see themselves.
Democrats and Democratic-leaning independents are more likely than Republicans and lean Republican to say it’s good for parents to break with gender norms in raising children. Here, too, the difference is most pronounced when it comes to raising boys. About eight-in-ten Democrats (78%) – vs. 47% of Republicans – say it’s a good thing for parents of young boys to encourage them to play with toys and participate in activities typically associated with girls.
Americans offer different assessments of how boys and girls raised these days when it comes to specific traits and behaviors. In encouraging children to talk about their feelings when they are sad or upset: (59%) of adults say there is too little emphasis on encouraging boys to talk about their feelings. In comparison, only 38% say the same about girls (51%) say things are about right in this area when it comes to girls. While (51%) say there should be more emphasis on encouraging boys to do well in school, somewhat smaller shares (43%) say there should be more emphasis on girls.
Women are more likely than men to say there is too little emphasis on encouraging girls to be leaders: (57%) of women say this than 49% of men. But when it comes to promoting leadership in boys, views are reversed, with larger shares of men (46%) than women (38%) saying there should be more emphasis on this.
Pew Research Center Pew Research Center is a nonpartisan fact tank that informs the public about the issues, attitudes, and trends shaping the world.
All references to party affiliation include those who lean toward that party: Republicans include those who identify as Republicans and independents who say they lean toward the Republican Party. Democrats include those who identify as Democrats and independents who say they lean toward the Democratic Party. References to Millennials include adults who are ages 18 to 36 in 2017. Generation Xers include periods 37 to 52, Baby Boomers include 53 to 71, and members of the Silent Generation have those ages 72 to 89. References to college graduates or people with a college degree comprise those with a bachelor’s degree or more. “Some college” includes those with an associate degree and those who attended college but did not obtain a degree. “High school” refers to those who have a high school diploma or equivalent, such as a General Education Development (GED) certificate. References to whites and blacks include only those who are non-Hispanic and identify as only one race. Hispanics are of any race.
A core mission of self-psychology has been the development of an adequate taxonomy of personality traits. A five-factor structure has emerged to explain covariation among attributes. The five-factor model or Big Five categorizes features into the broad domains of Extraversion, Agreeableness, Conscientiousness, Neuroticism, and Openness/Intellect (Digman, 1990; John et al., 2008).
Replicating previous findings, women reported higher Big Five Extraversion, Agreeableness, and Neuroticism scores than men. However, more extensive gender differences at the level of the aspects, with significant gender differences appearing in both parts of every Big Five trait. For Extraversion, Openness, and Conscientiousness, the gender differences to diverge at the aspect level, rendering them either small or undetectable at the Big Five level. These findings clarify the nature of gender differences in personality and highlight the utility of measuring personality at the aspect level.
The study of personality is especially useful in striving to examine mental differences between genders. Constitution by the extent to which someone displays high or low levels of specific traits. Traits are the consistent patterns of thoughts, feelings, motives, and behaviors that a person exhibits across situations (Fleeson and Gallagher, 2009). That is, someone who scores high on quality will show mental states related to that trait more often and to a more considerable extent than individuals who score low on that trait.
Gender differences in personality traits in terms of gender have higher scores on that trait, on average. For example, women are more agreeable than men (Feingold, 1994; Costa et al., 2001). the fact that women, on average, are more nurturing, tender-minded, and altruistic more often and to a greater extent than men. However, such a finding does not preclude that men may also experience nurturing, tender-minded, and altruistic states and that some men may even score higher in these traits than some women. Therefore, the goal of investigating gender differences in personality is to elucidate the differences among general patterns of behavior in men and women on average, with the understanding that both men and women can experience states across the full range of most traits. Gender differences in terms of mean differences do not imply that men and women only experience conditions on opposing ends of the trait spectrum; on the contrary, significant differences can exist along with a high degree of overlap between the distributions of men and women (Hyde, 2005).
Gender differences in personality in terms of the Big Five. However, the Big Five do not exhaust all of the essential distinctions among personality traits. Traits are such that more specific characteristics vary together within higher-order factors, like the Big Five. In the study of gender differences, one can investigate gender differences in personality traits at multiple resolution levels. Most trait research has focused on two groups of features: the broad Big Five domains and many more specific characteristics called facets, which within the Big Five. Currently, there is no consensus as to the identity and number of elements within the Big Five. Different approaches have identified different sets of facets based on the rational review of psychological constructs (e.g., Costa and McCrae, 1992) or by systematic sampling from the space defined by pairs of Big Five factors (e.g., Soto and John, 2009). In the present study, we utilized an empirically identified personality trait level that falls between narrow facets and broad domains. This personality organization level can characterize gender differences with a finer grain of detail than the Big Five, revealing differences.
Additionally, it provides an empirically based taxonomy of lower-level traits that is more likely to represent an adequate taxonomy of features than existing facet models. However, a large behavioral genetic study revealed that two distinct factors were necessary to account for the shared genetic variance among each domain (Jang et al., 2002). A separate study using factor analysis of 15 different facets within each field, for each of the Big Five dimensions (DeYoung et al., 2007). This research indicates that each of the Big Five contains two separable, though correlated, aspects, reflecting a level of personality below the broad domains but above the many facets. DeYoung et al. characterized these aspects by examining their factor-score correlations with over 2000 items from the International Personality Item Pool (IPIP). The parts were labeled as follows:
- Volatility and Withdrawal for Neuroticism
- Enthusiasm and Assertiveness for Extraversion
- Intellect and Openness for Openness/Intellect
- Industriousness and Orderliness for Conscientiousness
- Compassion and Politeness for Agreeableness
The aspect level of traits may be especially useful for investigating gender differences because these differences are sometimes unclear at the Big Five level and can be large and opposite directions at the facet level. The aspects provide a non-arbitrary and economic system for examining gender differences at a level of traits more specific than the Big Five.
Gender differences have several personality traits. Most meta-analyses and reviews examine gender differences in self-reports of personality on questionnaires that measure the Big Five, as well as facets within each (Feingold, 1994; Costa et al., 2001; Lippa, 2010). However, no analyses have specifically examined the two aspects of each Big Five trait to our knowledge.
The investigation of personality differences is essential to our understanding of general human variation, though it is not controversial. Research on individual differences in intelligence, for example, has sparked years of scientifically and emotionally motivated debate (Neisser et al., 1996). Biological and evolutionary approaches posit that gender differences are due to men’s and women’s dimorphically evolved concerns concerning reproductive issues, parental investment in offspring (Trivers, 1972; Buss, 2008). According to these theories, women should be more concerned with successfully raising children and should be more cautious, agreeable, nurturing, and emotionally involved. Men, on the other hand, should be more concerned with obtaining viable mating opportunities and should therefore exhibit more Assertiveness, risk-taking, and aggression. Other theories suggest that sociocultural influences shape gender norms. Women and men are expected to serve different roles in society and are, therefore, socialized to behave differently (Wood and Eagly, 2002; Eagly and Wood, 2005). Of course, it may well be that both evolutionary and social forces have contributed to gender differences.
Interestingly, recent studies have shown that gender differences in personality tend to be larger in more developed, Western cultures with less traditional sex roles (Costa et al., 2001; Schmitt et al., 2008).
Women are known to score higher than men on Neuroticism as measured at the Big Five trait level and on most facets of Neuroticism included in a standard measure of the Big Five, the NEO-PI-R (Costa et al., 2001). Additionally, women also score higher than men on related measures not explicitly designed to measure the Big Five, such as indices of anxiety (Feingold, 1994) and low self-esteem (Kling et al., 1999). The one facet of Neuroticism in which women do not always exhibit higher scores than men is Anger or Angry Hostility (Costa et al., 2001).
Agreeableness comprises traits relating to altruism, such as empathy and kindness. Women consistently score higher than men on Agreeableness and related measures, such as tender-mindedness (Feingold, 1994; Costa et al., 2001).
Conscientiousness describes traits related to self-discipline, organization, and the control of impulses. It appears to reflect the ability to exert self-control to follow the rules or maintain goal pursuit. Women score somewhat higher than men on some facets of Conscientiousness, such as order, dutifulness, and self-discipline (Feingold, 1994; Costa et al., 2001). These differences, however, are not consistent across cultures, and no significant gender difference has typically in Conscientiousness at the Big Five trait level (Costa et al., 2001).
Extraversion reflects sociability, Assertiveness, and positive emotionality, all of which to sensitivity to rewards (Depue and Collins, 1999; DeYoung and Gray, 2009). Whereas gender differences are small on the overall domain level of Extraversion (with women typically scoring higher), the small effect size could be due to gender differences in different directions at the facet level. Women tend to score higher than men on Warmth, Gregariousness, and Positive Emotions, whereas men score higher than women on Assertiveness and Excitement Seeking (Feingold, 1994; Costa et al., 2001).
Extraversion, together with Agreeableness, can describe the two dimensions of the interpersonal circumplex (IPC; Wiggins, 1979), which contains descriptions of traits relevant to interpersonal interaction. Though originally posited to describe interpersonal features using axes of Love and Status/Dominance, the IPC conceptualized as a rotation of Big Five Extraversion and Agreeableness (McCrae and Costa, 1989). Given the importance of Extraversion to the interpersonal domain, women would consistently score higher than men. However, the IPC pole, often called Dominance, contains bossy, domineering, and assertive traits. Men tend to be more dominant and agentic than women and exhibit higher levels of these traits (Helgeson and Fritz, 1999). Gender differences may switch directions depending on whether the specific characteristics measured fall closer or further from the dominance pole.
Openness/Intellect reflects imagination, creativity, intellectual curiosity, and appreciation of esthetic experiences. Broadly, Openness/Intellect relates to the ability and interest in attending to and processing complex stimuli. No significant gender differences on Openness/Intellect at the domain level are likely due to the trait’s divergent content. For example, women have scored higher than men on the facets of Esthetics and Feelings (Costa et al., 2001), whereas men tend to score higher on the Ideas facet (Feingold, 1994; Costa et al., 2001).
The gender differences pattern reviewed above highlights the need to look beyond the Big Five level to traits at lower analysis levels. Because the Big Five domains are so broad and encompass various personality characteristics, greater specificity is needed to uncover where gender differences genuinely lie. The current research seeks to replicate previous findings regarding gender differences at the Big Five level and extend the investigation into the intermediate sublevel of the two aspects within each domain.
Though no research on gender differences at the aspect level of trait structure, we expect those reported for the Big Five and their facets. Because the aspects are more economical and comprehensive than the facet models, they should provide a more transparent and more systematic representation of gender differences in personality.
We hypothesized that women should score higher than men in both aspects of Neuroticism, Volatility, and Withdrawal. However, the effect is likely to be more vital for Withdrawal, given the inclusion of anger within Volatility. Similarly, women should score higher than men in both aspects of Agreeableness, Compassion, and Politeness. Gender differences should also be in opposite directions for Openness/Intellect, Openness, and Intellect. Women should score higher than men in Openness, whereas men should score higher than women in Intellect.
The use of the aspects has the additional advantage that one can quickly examine one part’s unique effects while controlling for each pair. In cases where gender differences on the two aspects diverge, this approach may reveal differences ordinarily suppressed by the two elements’ shared variance within each Big Five domain. We accomplished this approach through the use of residualized results. Regressing one aspect on its complementary part and saving the residual produces a score that indicates unique variance in that aspect, without the conflict it shares with its complement. For example, the residualized score for Compassion indicates differences in Compassion holding Politeness equal. Suppose women, as predicted, to have higher Compassion residuals than men. In that case, that means that even if we take groups of men and women of equal Politeness, they are likely to be higher in Compassion on average.
Due to our sample’s diversity, we performed secondary analyses to investigate potential moderators of gender differences. For example, previous research has shown that gender differences are larger and more pronounced within Western cultures than Eastern cultures (Costa et al., 2001; Schmitt et al., 2008). Though mostly within North America, we were interested in similar patterns when considering gender differences among people of different ethnic backgrounds. We were able to test whether the way of gender differences was identical in participants of European versus Asian ethnic backgrounds.
Additionally, previous research has shown that gender differences in some traits (such as negative affect) may be more considerable in emerging adulthood than in later majority (Soto et al., 2011). Therefore, we investigated whether age moderated the gender difference in each trait. Finally, an increasing number of studies are using an online method to administer personality measures. Our sample included both laboratory and online forms of administration. Though previous research has not shown a significant difference in personality between these two methods (Gosling et al., 2004), we investigated whether the administration method moderated gender differences in our sample.
From several research projects, for which they received either monetary compensation or university course credit. Much of the data in a large Canadian metropolitan area, either as an online survey or as a part of laboratory studies (N = 1826; 537 male, 1289 female). Some participants (N = 481; 200 male, 281 female) were members of the Eugene-Springfield community sample (ESCS). Lastly, 336 participants were recruited via Amazon’s Mechanical Turk (MTurk; 155 male, 181 female) and completed the measures online. Participants ranged in age from 17 to 85 (M = 27.2, SD = 14.4). The majority of participants identified as White (39.9%) or Asian (27.5%), with 1% or less identifying as Native American, Hispanic, and Black. Twenty-five percent of participants identified as “other,” and 5% did not specify ethnicity. The demographic data for a number of our samples allowed participants to choose from only the above five ethnicity classifications or specify their ethnicity as “other.” Therefore, the classification of “Asian” contains individuals of both South-Asian and East-Asian ethnic backgrounds. Though South-Asian and East-Asian cultures are markedly different in many ways, both are more collectivist than Western cultures (Suh et al., 1998) and therefore provide an interesting contrast to the White/European ethnic background.
Unsurprisingly, Neuroticism, and Agreeableness are the domains for which gender differences were significant and in the same direction for both underlying aspects.
Women scored higher than men on Enthusiasm, Compassion, Politeness, Orderliness, Volatility, Withdrawal, and Openness. Men scored higher than women on Assertiveness and Intellect. Indicates that the two aspects of Extraversion (Enthusiasm and Assertiveness) and the two elements of Openness/Intellect display gender differences in opposite directions. Such divergence in gender differences at the aspect level helps to elucidate the small effect of the gender difference in overall Extraversion and the lack of a significant gender difference in Openness/Intellect. As in previous research.
Results for the residualized scores differed from those on the raw scores in two ways. First, the gender difference in Industriousness was now significant, with men scoring higher than women. Second, there was not a significant gender difference in residualized scores of Volatility. Indicates no difference between the average scores of men and women in Volatility when they are at equal levels of Withdrawal.
Previous research suggests that gender differences are robust across cultures (Costa et al., 2001; McCrae et al., 2005), and may differ with age for some traits (Soto et al., 2011). Because most of the sample participants were White and Asian, we were able to make comparisons only for these two groups.
The gender difference in Agreeableness was more extensive for older ages, and the gender difference in Neuroticism was more extensive for younger generations. Also, the gender difference seemed to reverse for Neuroticism, such that men had higher scores than women in older ages. For Openness/Intellect, the gender difference was non-existent at younger generations and larger favoring women at older ages. These patterns were driven by specific aspects, as evidenced by age’s moderating the gender difference in Compassion.
Intellect’s pattern is such that there is a more massive gender difference for younger ages than for older, favoring men. In older generations, the gender difference is non-existent or slightly leans women.
Compassion’s pattern was similar to that found for the raw scores, such that the gender difference in residualized Compassion increased with age. Finally, Volatility’s design was identical to that found for the raw scores, such that the gender difference favored women at younger generations and men at older.
Gender differences were more pervasive at the aspect level of trait organization immediately below the Big Five than for the Big Five themselves.
In contrast, the lack of a significant gender difference in Volatility, when controlling for Withdrawal, is most likely because an essential component of Volatility tends to be irritable and easily angered. Men sometimes score higher than women on Anger or Hostility (Scherwitz et al., 1991).
The gender difference in Neuroticism was moderated by age, such that the gender difference decreased with age. Neuroticism increases during emerging adulthood among females, but not males (Soto et al., 2011), explaining this results pattern. The gender difference in Volatility. Men scored higher in Volatility than women among White participants, whereas women scored higher among Asian participants. Given that Volatility partly reflects traits related to irritability and anger, this difference may be due to cultural differences in social norms related to anger expression (Matsumoto and Fontaine, 2008).
There was a significant gender difference in Agreeableness. Women tend to score higher than men, and this pattern was the same for the aspects, Compassion, and Politeness when measured in terms of raw scores or residualized scores. Compassion most clearly represents a tendency to invest in others emotionally and affiliate on an emotional level, incorporating traits such as warmth and empathy. Politeness describes the tendency to show respect to others and refrain from taking advantage of them and is related to cooperation and compliance. Findings that women score higher than men in both aspects are consistent with previous research showing women are more trusting and compliant than men (Costa et al., 2001).
Women have a more interdependent self-construal, in which their sense of self includes others (Markus and Kitayama, 1991). This gender difference is associated with motivational and behavioral differences, such as women having more interconnected and affiliative social groups (Cross and Madson, 1997). Therefore, women may be more motivated than men to maintain social and emotional bonds by enacting more agreeable traits.
Ethnicity moderated the gender differences in Agreeableness and its Compassion aspect, such that differences were larger among White participants than among Asian participants. This finding is consistent with previous research, which shows more considerable gender differences among more western and industrialized cultures (Costa et al., 2001; McCrae et al., 2005; Schmitt et al., 2008).
Asian participants, in general, rated themselves as less agreeable than white participants, which may indicate a reference group effect. A reference group effect would occur if participants compare themselves to their own culture, and there is a difference in Agreeableness between cultures. For example, someone who is more agreeable than the norm for Whites may be less friendly than the standard for Asians.
The Orderliness aspect reflects traits related to maintaining order and organization, including perfectionism (DeYoung et al., 2007). Given the positive correlation between perfectionism and components of Neuroticism such as anxiety and depression (Dunkley et al., 2006; Sherry et al., 2007), and the well-established gender differences in Neuroticism, one possibility is that Neuroticism accounts for the gender difference in Orderliness. However, when we regressed Orderliness (either raw or residualized) on Neuroticism and gender, gender remained a significant predictor, indicating that gender differences in Orderliness are not merely due to differences in Neuroticism.
Women’s age trend indicated a decline in Orderliness relative to Industriousness, whereas men’s tendency indicated an increase.
This gender difference was such that men scored higher than women in Industriousness. This difference in residualized scores but not raw scores can follow: if one examines a group of people with equal levels of Orderliness, the men in that group will, on average, score higher in Industriousness than the women.
We found a small but significant gender difference in overall Extraversion such that women score higher than men. However, the pattern was more complicated for the aspects, Enthusiasm, and Assertiveness. Enthusiasm reflects sociability, friendliness, and experiences of positive emotion. Our finding that women score higher than men in Enthusiasm was consistent with previous research showing similar patterns in Big Five facets of Gregariousness and Positive Emotions (Feingold, 1994; Costa et al., 2001). Assertiveness, on the other hand, reflects traits related to agency and Dominance. Consistent with previous research showing a gender difference favoring men for facets such as Assertiveness and Excitement Seeking (Feingold, 1994; Costa et al., 2001), we found that men score higher than women Assertiveness. For scores on the residualized metric.
Consistent with previous research, we did not find a significant difference in Openness/Intellect at the Big Five domain level. However, we found significant gender differences in both aspects of the Big Five environment (Intellect and Openness). On both the raw and residualized scores, women scored higher than men in Openness. In contrast, on both types of scores, men scored higher than women in Intellect. This pattern is consistent with previous reports of gender differences at the facet level, where women score higher than men on facets marking Openness (such as Esthetics and Feelings), but men score higher than women on the Ideas facet, which is a marker of Intellect (Feingold, 1994; Costa et al., 2001).
Although Intellect includes perceptions of cognitive ability and is more strongly associated with IQ scores than Openness (DeYoung et al., submitted), as indicative of greater intelligence for men than women. Gender differences in general intelligence are negligible, although men show more variance in scores than women (Deary et al., 2007; van der Sluis et al., 2008). However, our findings are consistent with the result that men show higher self-estimates of intelligence than women across cultures (von Stumm et al., 2009). This pattern is one of male hubris and female humility with intelligence. The gender difference in Intellect probably reflects these biases related to confidence in intellectual abilities.
Age moderated the gender difference in Intellect such that the gender difference was smaller at higher ages. The pattern suggests that the difference in Intellect between older and younger women is more massive than between older and younger men. Since gender differences in intelligence are negligible across the lifespan, this pattern most likely indicates that women gain perceptions of their intelligence, perhaps reflecting increases in self-esteem or self-confidence (Orth et al., 2010).
Although the Big Five organization of nature that it employs is reasonably comprehensive, some traits may not have adequate representation among the items in the BFAS, such as adult attachment style (Hazan and Shaver, 1987). Future research would be worthwhile to investigate gender differences in these additional traits and how they relate to gender differences in the Big Five.
Therefore, our findings could indicate gender differences in how men and women perceive and report on themselves, which do not necessarily reflect how others or their actual behavioral tendencies perceive them. Future research should explore gender differences in peer-reports of these personality traits. It might be especially interesting when the perceiver is of the opposite gender from the target. Additionally, behavioral or implicit personality measures could investigate whether the same pattern of gender differences exists when one moves beyond measuring personality through questionnaires.
Previous research has investigated gender differences among many different ethnicities, cultures, and types of societies (McCrae et al., 2005; Schmitt et al., 2008). Such an investigation is beyond the scope of the current research. The recent sample was mainly North American, and sample sizes within each ethnic group were limited. We were only able to perform analyses comparing White participants to Asian participants. It would be beneficial for future research to investigate gender differences in personality at the aspect level in additional ethnicities and cultures.
Similarly, our research indicated that age moderated gender differences in many traits. Our sample was cross-sectional rather than longitudinal. Hence our results may not accurately reflect the trajectories of personality change in men and women over time. Taken along with previous findings on age trends in personality (e.g., Roberts et al., 2006; Soto et al., 2011), our results suggest the utility of further investigation of how gender differences in personality may differ with increasing age.
Finally, though this and other studies have shown gender differences in personality, the question remains why these differences exist. Although the general consistency of gender differences across cultures may suggest evolutionary reasons for gender differences in personality traits, cross-cultural variation in gender differences for some features may mean that culture of origin or social roles and norms influence gender differences. Exactly how culture impacts personality is a tricky question, worthy of future study.
By examining personality at the level of the ten aspects of the Big Five, we demonstrated that gender differences in personality traits are even more pervasive than has typically been reported. In every one of the ten features assessed, significant gender differences were evident.
The average personalities of men and women are systematically different. However, does this mean that Bill Cosby’s metaphor, that men and women are from “different species,” is apt? We would caution against adopting such a dramatic interpretation of the pervasive gender differences in personality that we report in this study. All of the mean differences we found (and all of the differences that have in the past – e.g., Feingold, 1994; Costa et al., 2001) are small to moderate. The distributions of traits for men and women are mostly overlapping. To illustrate this fact, in Figure 10, we present the male and female distributions from our sample for the trait, which showed the most massive gender difference, Agreeableness. One can see that both men and women across a similar range of Agreeableness scores. Even though women score higher than men on average, many men are more agreeable than many women, and many are less friendly than many men.
Given that Agreeableness showed the most massive gender difference in our study, all other traits we reported significant gender differences would show even greater overlap in men’s and women’s distributions. Although the mean differences in personality between genders may be substantial in shaping human experience and human culture, they are probably not so large as to preclude effective communication between men and women. Unlike Bill Cosby, we are optimistic that any difficulties in communication between men and women are due primarily to cultural norms that are amenable to change, rather than differences in essential personality traits, which are much more difficult to change.
Wood, W., and Eagly, A. H. . A cross-cultural analysis of the behavior of women and men: implications for the origins of sex differences. Psychol. Bull. 128, 699–727.
Frontiers | Gender Differences in Personality across the …. https://www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fpsyg.2011.00178/full
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