Summary: Contrary to popular myths on stereotypes, women are not more emotional than men, researchers report. A new study reveals men’s emotions fluctuate just as much as women’s do.
Source: University of Michigan
Contrary to widely held gender stereotypes, women are not more emotional than men, researchers say.
Feelings such as enthusiasm, nervousness or strength are often interpreted differently between the two genders. It’s what being “emotional” means to men vs. women that is part of a new University of Michigan study that dispels these biases.
For instance, a man whose emotions fluctuate during a sporting event is described as “passionate.” But a woman whose emotions change due to any event, even if provoked, is considered “irrational,” says the study’s senior author Adriene Beltz, U-M assistant professor of psychology.
Beltz and colleagues Alexander Weigard, U-M assistant professor of psychiatry, and Amy Loviska, a graduate student at Purdue University, followed 142 men and women over 75 days to learn more about their daily emotions, both positive and negative. The women were divided into four groups: one naturally cycling and three others using different forms of oral contraceptives.
The researchers detected fluctuations in emotions three different ways, and then compared the sexes. They found little-to-no differences between the men and the various groups of women, suggesting that men’s emotions fluctuate to the same extent as women’s do (although likely for different reasons).
“We also didn’t find meaningful differences between the groups of women, making clear that emotional highs and lows are due to many influences—not only hormones,” she said.
The findings have implications beyond everyday people, the researchers say. Women have historically been excluded from research participation in part due to the assumption that ovarian hormone fluctuations lead to variation, especially in emotion, that can’t be experimentally controlled, they say.
“Our study uniquely provides psychological data to show that the justifications for excluding women in the first place (because fluctuating ovarian hormones, and consequently emotions, confounded experiments) were misguided,” Beltz said.
Little evidence for sex or ovarian hormone influences on affective variability
Women were historically excluded from research participation partly due to the assumption that ovarian hormone fluctuations lead to variation, especially in emotion, that could not be experimentally controlled. Although challenged in principle and practice, relevant empirical data are limited by single measurement occasions. The current paper fills this knowledge gap using data from a 75-day intensive longitudinal study.
Three indices of daily affective variability—volatility, emotional inertia, and cyclicity—were evaluated using Bayesian inferential methods in 142 men, naturally cycling women, and women using three different oral contraceptive formulations (that “stabilize” hormone fluctuations).
Results provided more evidence for similarities between men and women—and between naturally cycling women and oral contraceptive users—than for differences. Even if differences exist, effects are likely small.
Thus, there is little indication that ovarian hormones influence affective variability in women to a greater extent than the biopsychosocial factors that influence daily emotion in men.