Tabitha Gan underwent an internship at the Science Centre Singapore (SCS) in December 2014. She has written this blog post during her internship at SCS.
If you’re like most people, you probably looked at the title of the post and immediately thought the answer was obvious…women, duh!
Well, you may be in for a surprise.
Researchers have been trying to prove that women are more emotional than men for years. So far, none have been truly successful. In general, studies comparing brain responses and facial expressions of participants in the lab remain inconclusive about the differences in both genders to handle emotions.
In everyday life, women are generally seen as the more expressive, emotional gender. But is this external emotional display of both genders a true manifestation of their emotional reactions or is this the result of social conditioning?
Sociologists believe that women and men have been heavily influenced by society’s stereotypes of gender roles, leading to differences in emotional expression. In fact, this phenomenon starts from the cradle. Associate professor of Neuroscience Lise Eliot explains in her book Pink Brain, Blue Brain how the differential treatment of parents’ towards their female and male babies affects their children’s subsequent development and widens the perceived gender gap between the sexes.
Other studies show that adults have different responses to babies when they believe babies to be of a certain gender. Minimal biological differences between genders at birth could very well be magnified due to people’s beliefs about how different genders are supposed to behave – this subsequently shapes those children’s behaviours.
The sociological argument is powerful – when children are conditioned from young to expect men and women to behave a certain way, it follows that it will subconsciously shape their behaviour to conform to society’s expectations.
But there could be another reason why people think women are more emotional. A very interesting study by American researchers Lisa Barrett and Eliza Bliss-Moreau showed participants photos of faces displaying negative emotions and asked them to judge whether the person in the photo was an emotional person” or “having a bad day”.
Both female and male participants thought that a display of negative emotions on women’s faces was due to their “emotional personality”, but the same negative emotions displayed by men was “due to their circumstances”. These were the results after controlling several factors such as recall of faces, emotional level and even after showing the participants that both genders in the photos had valid reasons for being upset.
So here’s some food for thought this Valentine’s Day…according to the study, if a woman expresses emotion she’s being emotional but if a man expresses emotion, then he’s entitled to do so because of his circumstances. Truth or fallacy? You decide.
Meanwhile, here’s a humorous explanation by Mark Gungor of how the different genders think.
Happy Valentine’s Day!