A Psychologist Talks About 3 Ways Men And Women Are More Similar Than Different
New research dispels antiquated gender narratives.
By Mark Travers, Ph.D. | September 4, 2022
Many of us believe that men and women are two fundamentally different creatures. And, it's true, there are real biological differences between men and women. But are those differences overstated?
Fortunately, we have science to sort out the facts from fiction and rebalance the gender scales as needed.
Here are three snapshots of how men and women differ less than you might imagine.
#1. On creativity
Psychological research shows that creativity is composed of the following qualities:
- A level of risk-taking
- Challenging the status quo to come up with unique and novel solutions
- Be assertive and independent
Due to the apparent masculine nature of these qualities, "the general perception of creativity is that it is a man's job," according to psychologist Snehal Hora from the Buffalo School of Management. "Women are systematically less involved and underrated in tasks that require creativity."
But does that mean that women are inherently less creative? Not at all, according to Hora's research published in the Journal of Applied Psychology.
Her study found that men were rated to have higher creative performance than women despite having equal creative abilities as men. This is because women are usually constrained by:
- Their own internalized gender roles
- The backlash they experience for engaging in what is perceived to be a masculine activity
An important step to resolve this imbalance, according to Hora, is to make women aware of these internalized gender biases to help them overcome it.
"Organizations and leaders need to take suitable measures and provide the right kind of environment such that women not only feel comfortable being creative but also view their creativity accurately," she explains. "Based on the findings of this research, an environment that fosters gender egalitarianism, kindness, equality, and concern for others is likely to be beneficial in boosting the creativity of women and men."
#2. On wisdom
According to psychiatrist Dilip Jeste, wisdom has several components:
- Empathy or compassion
- Control over one's emotions
- Accepting uncertainty
- Accepting a diversity of perspectives
- Advising those who seek guidance
- Spirituality (a feeling of constant connectedness to an entity that is not seen or heard)
Jeste's recent study published in Frontiers in Psychology on the topic revealed that:
- Women scored higher on compassion and other pro-social components of wisdom as well as on self-reflection.
- Men scored higher on decisiveness and showed greater control over their emotions.
"Some wisdom experts argue that wisdom should be androgynous — i.e., it is not a trait belonging to a specific gender group," explains Jeste. "However, some gender differences could be rooted in our existing socio-cultural expectations of women and men. And, as gender norms change and gender equity improves, we may see these differences diminish."
In most societies, according to Jeste, women and men are treated differently from infancy and this impacts what they believe wisdom is and how they describe what a wise woman is versus what a wise man is. This may lead women and men to develop wisdom somewhat differently, both intentionally and unintentionally.
While both men and women should be appreciated equally for the wisdom they bring to the table, Jeste gives us three wisdom skills to practice regardless of our gender:
- Seek to understand the perspectives of others with different backgrounds and viewpoints from your own
- Develop compassion by helping others in your community and participating in causes that serve a larger good
- Practice effective decision-making by slowing that process down and considering all the evidence
#3. On intimacy
A study led by Emelie Constant published in the European Review of Applied Psychology examined how men and women express, define, and experience intimacy in romantic relationships. Intimacy, according to previous research, has been defined as the "emotional component of love" which relates to feelings of:
Constant's study added to this definition by showing that intimacy is:
- Interpersonal by nature (i.e, it must be founded on self-disclosure and responsiveness)
- Essential to well-being and human functioning, as well as fulfillment
More importantly, the study revealed that:
- Women were more inclined to value communication, affection, and emotional closeness
- Men were more likely to value shared activities, joint leisure time, and sexual intimacy
The antidote to this disparity can be found in the interpersonal nature of intimacy, which can be achieved through respect for each other's character and sincere responsiveness. This ensures that both members of the relationship honor the other's experience and expression of intimacy.
Personality and trait differences between men and women are best viewed as complementary, not competitive. This is especially visible when we take the time we reassess our gender stereotypes in light of new scientific evidence.