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Are Men and Women Living in Different Emotional World?

Updated on January 5, 2014

In our society men have always been viewed as different from women in many ways. For example, according to one old saying, “Men are from Mars and Women are from Jupiter.”

Based on one recent finding, women and men are also believed to be living in separate emotional world. It’s believed, that women are more emotional than men, and that men by contrast are “uptight,” repressed, unfeeling, or at least more limited in emotional expression! In in attempt to validate this belief, researchers think it would be best for them to try to approach this scientifically. As a result, they designed a study in which subjects were asked to provide answers to these few emotionally related questions below:

1.Do men and women interpret emotion differently?

2.Do men and women, for example, assign different causes to emotion in general and to individual emotions in particular?

3.Do they attribute some emotions to men and others to women?

The randomly selected study group --- which consisted of twelve males and twelve females--- was presented with the following ten emotions:

  • Interest
  • Fear
  • Disgust
  • Happiness
  • Surprise
  • Distress
  • Anger
  • Shame
  • Contempt
  • Sadness

They were all asked to give an explanation for each of the above emotion in an anonymous person. They were also asked to verbalize how would they know, in real life, what that person might be feeling and what would the clues be? Finally, for each emotion, the subjects were asked whether they thought that unspecified person was a man or a woman.

The kind of answers these students have provided, have led the researchers to the conclusion that there were some significant and interesting differences in men’s and women’s attributions of emotions, and these different attributions fit in with certain culture-based gender stereotypes. Males are generally expected to be more focused on the outside world of politics, business, sports, and the like.

Based on the feedback from this study, the male subjects were found to be indeed more likely to attribute emotion to external --- that is, situational causes. Women in general, are expected to be concerned primarily with the “inner life” of love and family relationships, but (in compensation, some would world) they are allowed greater freedom to delve into emotions and the inner self.

Female subjects on the other hand in the study, had the tendency to attribute emotion primarily to relational causes (such as interactions with others) and secondarily to internal causes(such as moods). It’s believed that concern with interpersonal relationships might be one of the reasons women have such difficulty lying convincingly.

This basic difference in male and female attributions was particularly obvious when the subject addressed anger and fear. Both genders attributed anger to relational causes, but women did so to a greater extent than men. In the case of fear, both genders relied on internal explanations --- that is, to explanations based on disposition, mood, personal desires, or needs. But women tended to rely more largely on internal explanations than men did.

The question is, do men and women go a step beyond such sex differences in attributions and think of emotions as characteristically either male or female? Here, we might expect cultural stereotypes -- for example, anger is male, fear is female --- to lead to consistent sex-typing of individual emotions.

The researchers discovered however, that men were more likely to sex-type emotions: For all the emotions tested men had the tendency to describe them as characteristically male. Women, in contrast, appeared less willing to categorize any emotion as strictly male or female. Some believed that men tend to generalized their own emotional perspectives to everyone else, including women.

Finally, the experimenters found that the men who participated in this study were more likely to regard most of the emotions studied as subject to self-control. The only expectations were anger and fear, which they did not see potentially controllable while the women did.

The suggestion is that we should think emotions as “Male”--- If men attribute emotions primarily to external factors, and assert the possibility of personal control over most emotions. It appears that men believe they can control external forces to some extent, according to the researchers.

The conclusion drawn here, is that men and women do live in different emotional worlds. If both sexes perceive emotions differently, it’s also likely that they will respond to emotion differently. What the researchers would like to bring to our attention however, is that this does not mean that men and women have different capacities for emotion and its expression. They believe it merely shows that they have the tendency to use (or choose not to use) their capacities differently, in different situations.


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    • mackyi profile image

      I.W. McFarlane 3 years ago from Philadelphia

      Thanks for dropping by Jackie. I couldn't agree with you more. Things have gotten way too complicated, I won't even get there! :-).

    • Jackie Lynnley profile image

      Jackie Lynnley 3 years ago from The Beautiful South

      Male and female are different and are brought up differently I will agree on that (as a rule) and boys are expected to be tougher but I think today female do not want to accept the male as tougher and it gets a bit confusing, doesn't it? We still want the guy to open our door and treat us as feminine but then we want to act tough as if no man can out us. lol What a game....

    • mackyi profile image

      I.W. McFarlane 5 years ago from Philadelphia

      I have read each and every line of your comment dashingscorpio, and although I might not agree with all you have to say, you have made a few points that I cannot dispute. Like you have said, this is just your opinion! Therefore, it should be respected! I am sure others have their personal opinions on this subject matter too. Thanks for stopping by.

    • dashingscorpio profile image

      dashingscorpio 5 years ago

      I believe the way boys are raised is completely different from how girls are raised. Parents provide reward/punishment for a child's behavior. They also tell him or her what is expected and acceptable behavior. If a little girl cries she comforted by mommy and daddy. If a little boy cries he may be comforted by mommy but daddy is more likely to tell him, "Boys don't cry". These are the "formative years". As a youngman we learn that being agressive and winning garners us "respect" from our male counterparts. To be respected by other men is often more important to a man then to have the respect of a woman. In fact women are drawn to a man who is respected by other men. We are also taught if we are financially successful we can have any woman we want. Many women view sensitive men as being whimps. According to many reports even women who are successful in their own careers still want a "take charge" man at home. They want a strong protector whom they can cry on his shoulder at times.

      Lots of women say they want a sensitive man who is in touch with his emotions but very often deep down they don’t respect this type of man. Even in our modern era strong independent women are still (fantasizing) about being controlled by men in exploits such as those described in “Fifty Shades of Grey”

      Having said that every study or conversation along these lines are in “generalizations”. There are over 7 billion people on the planet. Odds are there are just as many women looking for sensitive relationship nurturing men as there are others that want what they call a “Real man”. The goal is to find someone who is looking for what you bring to the table. One man’s opinion! :-)