Sunday, January 25, 2015

Are Women More Sensitive?

Are women more emotional than men?

Throughout human history most people have reflexively answered in the affirmative.

More recently, certain members of the species have insisted that labeling women as more emotional was part of a cultural conspiracy to keep them in the home and out of the workplace.

When you say that women are more sensitive emotionally you are disrespecting their cognitive capacities and telling them to spend their time dealing with children, thus with people who have a more limited ability to express themselves through language.

Besides, certain human beings will tell you this stereotype of female emotional sensitivity has been concocted by the patriarchy to keep women from their rightful place on the battlefield. If there's anything men dread, it's the woman warrior!

Be all of that as it may, we no longer need to rely on opinion. Brain science has offered a more accurate assessment.

It has concluded that women are more sensitive emotionally, especially to negative images.

The Washington Post reports the story:

Researchers from University of Basel, whose study will be published in a forthcoming issue of the Journal of Neuroscience, found that women rated positive and negative images as more emotionally stimulating than men did, and that their brains were more active than men's when viewing negative pictures.

Such findings seem to support a common perception that women are more emotionally sensitive than men "and provides evidence for gender differences on the neural level," said lead author Annette Milnik of the University of Basel.

Some of you will immediately declare that the research has merely shown that the female brain is a social construct, but Milnik prefers to leave the question open.

She does note, however, that women suffer from emotional disorders more frequently than do men:

Women are more likely to develop major depression, anxiety disorder, and post-traumatic stress disorder, all of which are related to emotional dysregulation.

This report is hiding another more insidious prejudice. The study declares women to be more sensitive emotionally, but it could just as well have noted that men are more insensitive emotionally.

Most of us did not need a scientific study to know this, but still….

This means that women are more sensitive to the unspoken needs and wants and feelings of other people. But it also tells us that men have a superior capacity to deal with adversity and to watch disgusting images.

I am guessing that you knew all that already.


Anonymous said...

Increased sensitivity can make people more insensitive.

Overly sensitive people are fragile and touchy and, as self-pitying drama queens, can be insensitive to other people.

Ares Olympus said...

Anon @3:13pm notes the conflicting usage of the word "sensitive", i.e. sensitive as in easily offended, and sensitive as in aware of other people's emotional states.

But the overview of the study is annoying. Saying "evidence for gender differences on the neural level" is almost meaningless.

Is there a bell curve? Standard deviation Is there overlap? Or are men from Mars and women from Venus? And how does it change with age? Do boys and girls also differ, or are it post-puberty hormones involves? And if so, does it change post-menopause as well?