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Are Women Really More Emotional Than Men?


Women have been stereotypically defined as being more emotional than men. In popular culture, women are depicted as being more emotionally volatile, often erupting into fits of sadness, anger, despair or jealousy much more frequently than their male counterparts. But is this portrayal scientifically accurate? Research has shown that there are differences in how men and women emotionally respond to situations. However, little research has addressed the core self-conscious emotions (SCE) of men and women and how they differ. Nicole M. Else-Quest of the Department of Psychology at the University of Maryland in Baltimore sought to debunk the myth that women have less emotional regulation than men. She recently conducted a study that compared male and female levels of embarrassment, shame, guilt, and pride in data gathered from over 300 studies.

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Existing research has shown that women and men differ in their risks for some mental health issues such as depression, food and eating issues, anxiety, and self-worth. How men and women experience SCEs has a direct influence on their likelihood of developing these and other psychological problems. Else-Quest analyzed over 200,000 self-reports and found that for the most part, women and men had similar levels of SCEs. The results revealed slightly higher levels of guilt and shame in the women, but minimal differences in pride and embarrassment. Else-Quest also looked at age as a factor because men and women tend to exhibit the first signs of depression, anxiety, and low self-esteem at different ages. She found that although there were relatively few differences in SCEs in early childhood, women reported higher levels of SCEs, primarily shame and guilt, during adolescence.

Overall, Else-Quest discovered that women experienced the highest levels of guilt and shame when they were asked about sex, food and eating, body image, or the environment. Although the rates of SCEs in these areas were only slightly higher for women than men, these results support existing research regarding women’s emotional perceptions about sex, body image, and eating problems. Else-Quest concluded by saying that even though women had minimally elevated levels of guilt and shame, the men and women reported levels of pride and embarrassment that were virtually identical. She added, “These findings contribute to the literature demonstrating that blanket stereotypes about women’s greater emotionality are inaccurate.”

Else-Quest, N. M., Higgins, A., Allison, C., Morton, L. C. (2012). Gender differences in self-conscious emotional experience: A meta-analysis. Psychological Bulletin. Advance online publication. doi: 10.1037/a0027930

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  • nick April 30th, 2012 at 11:43 PM #1

    I don’t think there really is a lot of difference. All this emotional response has a lot to do with popular culture,stereotypes and the situations. So it has little barbering over what men and women feel in general and how their emotions are handled.

  • Chad May 1st, 2012 at 4:15 AM #2

    Women may be more emotional on the outside and a little more willing to let their feelings show, but as a man I don’t happen to think that they are actually more emotional than us. Again, maybe more willing to wear those emotions on their sleeves, but we feel the same things that they do.

  • Recovery Mental Health May 1st, 2012 at 9:41 AM #3

    Women show their emotions, men hide their emotions… that is why there is a stigma about women being more emotional than men.
    Visit my site and share your story about mental health disorders, illnesses and/or drug addiction… ask me how. God Bless. I like your site.

  • ted michaels May 1st, 2012 at 4:01 PM #4

    Come on, we all know that women are way more emotional than men but I think that we are all trying to be a little too pc and are too afraid to say it. I don’t think that this is a bad thing, just kinda the way it is. Women are raised to know that it’s okay for them to shw what is going on with them and that nobody will look down on them for expressing that. But men are made to feel weak for even shedding a tear. Not saying that thi is right but you know that if you were brought up in a certain generation then that’s the way it is. My wife is always asking me to show a little emotion but that’s not the way I was raised. I was raised to be the man of the house and let the women cry the tears. We might do it on the inside but never too good to let those feelings show through.

  • Trish May 2nd, 2012 at 4:22 AM #5

    Men are pigs.
    You don ‘t know what’s going on with them because they are too scared to show what’s going on with them.
    That drives me crazy!
    What’s so wrong with putting your true self out there and being honest with who you are?

  • Trevor May 2nd, 2012 at 3:27 PM #6

    Women are chicken.
    You don’t know what’s going on with them because they are too scared to speak what’s going on with them.
    That drives me crazy!
    What’s wrong with spelling your true self out there and being honest with who you are?

  • Baylor May 3rd, 2012 at 1:15 PM #7

    whoa whoa some name calling going on here and I didn’t think this site was what that was all about. . .
    anyway, who cares who is more emotional? As long as you are letting your real feelings out but dealing with them in a grown up way (ahem) then be as emotional as you want!

  • Krissy June 17th, 2012 at 2:50 PM #8

    I believe that both men and women are equally emotional if all were placed in the same environmental situations. Most times… women and men have different roles and as such are affected differently. how they handle the situation and the roles bestowed upon them is how they end up becoming. I have male friends who are way more emotional than any of my girlfriends.. i remember the days when I would never shed a single tear. My roles have changed.. so ..hormones, stress, environment, responsibilities… security.. all changes..

  • fat April 17th, 2014 at 6:59 PM #9

    That was a terrible study. Self reporting is not a good way to measure anything. It is unreliable because the individual is not objectively measuring anything and this study in particular used qualitative not quantitative measures to get its results which is even worse!

    Complete waste of research money.

  • Tish July 8th, 2014 at 5:03 PM #10

    @ted michaels
    It’s not a matter of being pc, it’s a matter of being intelligent. You contradicted yourself when you said that you were “raised” to not show emotion. Signaling that it was not biological for you to not be emotive, but taught to you. You still have the same emotions, you’re just afraid to show them. Everyone feels the same emotion. Some just show it, and some don’t.

  • Matt p July 9th, 2014 at 12:59 AM #11

    It’s called not having self confidence. I’m pretty sure a lot of guys are defined by that. I don’t see comments from guys saying what they want in a girl. Nope. Nowhere. At least when it comes to this kind of conversation. Women always comment how they “want a guy” who has a certain quality. Fine. Just cross those hundreds of thousands of guys who are desperate off the list. I’m not saying a guy would date anybody, but I just would like a girl who is fairly nice looking, a bit smart, and kind, nothing more. Too bad that I don’t fit the criteria of the majority of teen girls perfectly enough. I honestly can assume, that according to this article, I am up to par with the level of emotion a women has. Sorry if this offends anyone. Please don’t get mad at this comment

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