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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The preceding article summarizes research or news from periodicals or related source material in the fields of mental health and psychology. did not participate in or condone any studies, or conclucions thereof, that may have been cited. Any views or opinions expressed are not necessarily shared by

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  • nick

    April 30th, 2012 at 11:43 PM

    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

    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

    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

    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

    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

    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

    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

    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

    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

    @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

    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

  • Alex

    April 6th, 2015 at 9:11 AM

    I think the author phrased the question wrong. What emotion are we talking about? The stereotype that women are “too emotional” is in what way, are women too-caring, too emotional to make decisions are pull that trigger when women would do it rather than a man that waits around and plays “big man”.

    There is no doubt that women are more emotionally varied than men at times, but emotions are not uniform, although caring and empathy can be associated with women, oftentimes some women can be viewed as “giving into emotions” and have less empathy and caring. Women often judge other women and are harshly critical of other women. For instance some women may expect men do everything or most things for them, and not do much work, some men may be “okay” with this. Are all women emotional folks who will spend a lot of money on clothing, but then some women aren’t.

    It’s hard to stereotype, girls fight other girls, and if pregnancy and child bearing were so emotionally bonding, why do many women abuse,kill,hide in trash their children? Of course stereotypes about women, mean that women are great private investigators, because men are viewed as creeps and intrusive.

    Many women are very dismissive of other women and other folks in general. Is it because some women are just stern and giving into their emotional frustrations.

    In politics for example women are just as diverse as men in voting. There are conservative women who knock other liberal women and men, and liberal women who knock conservative men, and it gets ugly. There’s that annoying b boss as called by women, and that great guy boss, or there is that male bass lacking empthay and that female boss with careness, and of course it depends on gender interaction.

    So it’s not so black and white, sure there are differences, but stereotypes,perception,environmental factors,peers,religion,etc all influence things.

  • Joyce

    July 5th, 2015 at 10:22 PM

    Sorry but no… Everyone is always divided on this topic and unfortunately medical scientists are f***ing around twiddling their fingers with their heads up their a**es..

    Studying both genders will get them nowhere! They need to observe and record the neurological & psychological changes in transgender men and women as they begin taking hormones associated with the opposite gender.

    As a transsexual woman I can definitely say without a doubt that females ARE very much more emotional!

    I’ve experienced life as both genders (even if my time as a male was very short) but I’ve had friends who transitioned but not until their 40’s… The female-to-males became obviously more sexually charged (no it’s not a myth, men really are super freaks for sex) while the male-to-female experienced a massive sex drive loss and became more emotionally expressive but had personally told me that she could barely cope with the extra emotions. One of my friends who had a history of sexual abuse had to stop taking her hormones because she was becoming suicidal, the events from her past that had lost all emotional meaning previously thanks to psychological treatment were coming back with a monstrous vengeance (because women ruminate, which just makes the past negative experiences compile and get blasted out of proportion, it’s also why women are better grudge holders).

    If there is anyone who genuinely believes men and women are emotionally equal of a scale from 1-10 they are demented or trying to make themselves feel better..

    I mean break-ups are harder for women than for men… We can ALL vouch for that… All of us trans people.. We after all have insight than nobody else has :/

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