Study Dispels Gender Myths About Emotion and Rationality

A woman and man gaze off in contemplationThe notion that women are more emotional—and therefore less rational—than men can be found everywhere from self-help books to Internet message boards. Women’s supposed lack of rationality has been used to justify various forms of discrimination, and even to claim that women are less intelligent than men. A study published in Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin argues not only that women are just as rational as men, but also that there is not a clear dichotomy between emotion and rationality.

Rationality Similar in Men and Women

Researchers presented 6,100 men and women with moral decisions about topics such as lying, abortion, murder, animal research, and torture. For example, one moral dilemma required participants to determine whether it would be acceptable to kill Adolf Hitler to save millions of lives, even if doing so meant killing him before he did anything wrong. Another questioned whether a police officer should be able to torture an alleged bomber to find explosives that could take many lives.

Study results demonstrate that both men and women assessed how various decisions might harm others, engaging in similar levels of rational analysis for each moral conundrum.

Women, Empathy, and Rationality

Historically, empathy and emotion have been treated as the antipode of reason and rationality. The study calls this into question. Researchers found that women displayed more empathy than men, and were more likely to have a “gut-level” negative reaction to harming others. For instance, a woman who agreed it was acceptable to kill Hitler might still feel upset about doing so. 

The researchers say their findings are consistent with previous research, which suggest that gender differences in cognitive abilities are either nonexistent or very small. They argue that their results show that emotion does not necessarily preclude rationality. Instead, it’s possible to experience empathy while also behaving rationally.

References:

Women think ‘as rationally’ as men – but also use more gut feeling. (2015, April 8). Retrieved from http://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/292019.php

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  • Ellis

    Ellis

    April 13th, 2015 at 4:01 PM

    thank goodness the truth comes out!
    these false beliefs have been used for too long I think in such a sexist and discriminatory way to hold women back from their true potential

  • patsy

    patsy

    April 14th, 2015 at 10:25 AM

    Sure, I get emotional at times, I think that we could all say that, male or female. But I rule with my head far more than with my heart just as I think that any rational person, again male or female, is going to.

  • Cason

    Cason

    April 14th, 2015 at 12:51 PM

    Well I will just say that the women that I have been around? They run a lot hotter than other people do that I know! This is not meant to be negative, but I do think that emotionally they tend to feel things a little deeper than men do. I think that we are just hard wired a little differently that way.

  • Arnold

    Arnold

    April 20th, 2015 at 3:39 PM

    You can be sympathetic to the plight of making a hard decision but that doesn’t mean that you will then be unable to make a rational decision. There is no law out there that says that you cannot be both at the same time and I am afraid ladies that you have gotten a bad rap over the years!

  • Ryder

    Ryder

    September 22nd, 2017 at 3:20 PM

    Too funny… this horribly written article gets it wrong. It’s, in a word “irrational”.
    The study cited speaks ONLY TO “rationality” in making moral decisions, which is a questionable undertaking to begin with, because “morality” is not necessarily rooted firmly in rational thought to begin with. It’s likely to be a combination of rational thought and moral sensibilities… and so would be a discussion specifically about emotional considerations, in part.
    The notion that women are less rational and more emotional is by no means challenged by the study.

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