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Men And Women Found More Similar Than Portrayed In Popular Media

Date:
September 19, 2005
Source:
American Psychological Association
Summary:
The popular media has portrayed men and women as psychologically different as two planets -- Mars and Venus -- but these differences are vastly overestimated and the two sexes are more similar in personality, communication, cognitive ability and leadership than realized, according to a review of 46 meta-analyses conducted over the last 20 years.
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WASHINGTON -- The popular media has portrayed men and women aspsychologically different as two planets -- Mars and Venus -- but thesedifferences are vastly overestimated and the two sexes are more similarin personality, communication, cognitive ability and leadership thanrealized, according to a review of 46 meta-analyses conducted over thelast 20 years.

According to the meta-analysis of studies on gender differencesreported on in the current issue of the American Psychologist, malesand females from childhood to adulthood are more alike than differenton most but not all psychological variables, said psychologist Janet S.Hyde, Ph.D., of the University of Wisconsin in Madison. Psychologicaldifferences based on gender were examined in studies that looked at anumber of psychological traits and abilities to determine how muchgender influenced an outcome. The traits and variables examined werecognitive abilities, verbal and nonverbal communication, social orpsychological traits like aggression or leadership, psychologicalwell-being like self-esteem, motor behaviors like throwing distance andmoral reasoning.

Gender differences accounted for either zero or a very small effect formost of the psychological variables examined, according to Hyde. Onlymotor behaviors (throwing distance), some aspects of sexuality andheightened physical aggression showed marked gender differences.

Furthermore, gender differences seem to depend on the context they weremeasured in, said Hyde. In studies where gender norms are removed,researchers demonstrated how important gender roles and social contextwere in determining a person's actions. In one study where participantsin the experimental group were told that they were not identified asmale or female nor wore any identification, neither sex conformed to astereotyped image when given the opportunity to act aggressively. Theydid the opposite to what was expected.

Over-inflated claims of gender difference seen in the mass media affectmen and women in work, parenting and relationships, said Hyde. Studiesof gender and evaluation of leaders in the workplace show that womenwho go against the caring, nurturing stereotype may pay for it dearlywhen being hired or evaluated. This also happens with the portrayals ofrelationships in the media. Best-selling books and popular magazinearticles assert that women and men can't get along because theycommunicate too differently, said Dr. Hyde. Maybe the problem is thatthey give up prematurely because they believe they can't change whatthey mistakenly believe is an innate trait, she added.

Children also suffer the consequences of these exaggerated claims ofgender difference. There is a wide spread belief that boys are betterin math than girls, said Dr Hyde. But according to this meta-analysis,boys and girls perform equally in math until high school where boys dogain a small advantage. Unfortunately, elementary agedmathematically-talented girls may be overlooked by parents who havelower expectations for a daughter's success in math versus a son'slikelihood to succeed in math. Research has shown that parents'expectations for their children's math success relate strongly to achild's self-confidence and his or her performance.

The misrepresentation of how different the sexes are, which is notsupported by the scientific evidence, harms men and women of all agesin many different areas of life, said Dr. Hyde. "The claims can hurtwomen's opportunities in the workplace, dissuade couples from trying toresolve conflict and communication problems and cause unnecessaryobstacles that hurt children and adolescents' self-esteem."

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Article: "The Gender SimilaritiesHypothesis," Janet Shibley Hyde, Ph.D., University of Wisconsin -Madison; American Psychologist, Vol. 60, No. 6.



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American Psychological Association. "Men And Women Found More Similar Than Portrayed In Popular Media." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 19 September 2005. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2005/09/050919082317.htm>.
American Psychological Association. (2005, September 19). Men And Women Found More Similar Than Portrayed In Popular Media. ScienceDaily. Retrieved September 3, 2015 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2005/09/050919082317.htm
American Psychological Association. "Men And Women Found More Similar Than Portrayed In Popular Media." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2005/09/050919082317.htm (accessed September 3, 2015).

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