As we prepare for Women’s Month in March, we thought to share with you a recently published study scientifically proving an intrinsically common truth: women are more empathetic than men.
Empathy, dear male readers, is a mechanism for understanding other people’s emotions and sharing their distress, making us feel a need to help them.
It is often examined using the Reading the Mind in the Eyes Test (RMET), which gauges the ability to identify internal emotional states by examining the eye region of the face.
Studies have already determined that the average level of empathy among woman is higher than among men. And yet, these studies were conducted on small numbers of participants of a restricted age range confined almost entirely to Western countries.
The new study by researchers from the University of Haifa, Bar-Ilan University and Cambridge University, recently published in the journal PNAS, sampled 305,736 participants aged 16 to 70 from 57 countries who undertook a RMET and completed cognitive questionnaires.
The researchers found that in 36 out of 57 countries women, on average, were more successful than men in identifying emotions, reflecting higher levels of empathy.
Pakistan had the largest difference between women and men, followed by Nigeria, Greece and Poland. Israel ranked 41 out of the 57 countries, with a similar gender gap to Brazil, China, Denmark and Sweden.
The researchers also found a significant increase in the empathetic abilities of both women and men between the ages of 16 and 20, while at a later age a small empathetic decline is seen in both sexes.
“The findings of our study show that women have a sharper understanding of others. They are better at identifying other people’s thoughts and they also have a stronger social sense,” says University of Haifa’s Prof. Ahmad Abu-Akel.
“The differences between women and men in terms of the ability to truly understand people they interact with have important ramifications in diverse social contexts,” he added.
“For example, we would expect to see significant differences in decision-making by companies, corporations, and even governments that implement gender equality by comparison to bodies where there is a gender imbalance in either direction.”