For decades, popular writers have thought that men and women are so psychologically dissimilar they could hail from entirely different planets.
But a new study shows that it’s time for the Mars/Venus theories about the sexes to come back to Earth.
From empathy and sexuality to science inclination and extroversion, statistical analysis of 122 different characteristics involving 13,301 individuals shows that men and women, by and large, do not fall into different groups.
In other words, no matter how strange and inscrutable your partner may seem, their gender is probably only a small part of the problem.
“People think about the sexes as distinct categories,” says Harry Reis, professor of psychology at the University of Rochester and a co-author on the study.
But the handy dichotomy often falls apart under statistical scrutiny. For example, it is not at all unusual for men to be empathic and women to be good at math — characteristics that some research has associated with the other sex, said lead author Bobbi Carothers, who completed the study as part of her doctoral dissertation at Rochester.
“Sex is not nearly as confining a category as stereotypes and even some academic studies would have us believe,” she adds.
The authors reached that conclusion by reanalysing data from 13 studies that had shown significant, and often large, sex differences.
They revisited surveys on relationship interdependence, intimacy, and sexuality. They reopened studies of the “big five” personality traits: extroversion, openness, agreeableness, emotional stability, and conscientiousness.