Who Is More Empathic;
Men Or Women?
Three sources of evidence commonly cited by present-day neuroscientists
and psychologists in support of the view that women are more empathic than
men are as follows.
Questionnaires have been designed that are purported to give a
reasonable measure of how empathic are the respondents. Typically, they
are said to
indicate that women are more
empathic than men. A good example of this can be found in a questionnaire
constructed by the leading neuroscientist Simon Baron-Cohen. (It can be
Examples of the questions deemed relevant to the measurement of
'empathy' include the following ...
Do you agree or disagree with the following statements ...
I can easily tell if someone else wants to enter a conversation.
I can pick up quickly if someone says one thing but means another.
I find it easy to put myself in somebody else's shoes.
Well, I think that it must be fairly obvious that this questionnaire is
simply asking people to evaluate themselves. ("Are you good at doing this
task, or are you not?") As such, any differences found between men and
women simply tells us that men and women assess themselves differently.
Which tells us absolutely nothing about any possible differences in their ability to empathise.
Indeed, my guess is that a test of empathy just as valid as the
Baron-Cohen test could simply have one item on it.
"How empathic are you? Give a score from 1 to 10."
Because, basically, this is what his test boils down to.
women see themselves as being more empathic than
men see themselves to be.
And so the finding that women score themselves higher than do men on
this questionnaire, at best simply tells us that women see themselves as
being more empathic than men see themselves to be.
And one could then quite happily, and legitimately, interpret this finding to mean that
women simply have a higher opinion of themselves than do men.
No surprises there.
But even this is being generous to Simon Baron-Cohen, for (as I pointed
out in my piece entitled Who Suffers More
From Depression - Men Or Women?) men and women are highly likely to
differ quite considerably in the way in which they respond to (and
perceive) the questions contained in questionnaires of this type.
And given that this is highly likely, then it follows that such
questionnaires are highly likely to be invalid when it comes to measuring
Now, please note that this is not
to say that such questionnaires are necessarily and completely invalid
when it comes to assessing various psychological characteristics.
They might well be valid in this role.
But they cannot be used validly to assess the differences between men
and women because - to repeat myself - men and women are highly likely to
perceive and to respond to the questions differently.
A silly example.
How fat are you?
"How fat are you? Rate yourself from 1 to 10."
The responses to such a question are highly likely to correlate quite
well with how fat the respondents actually are.
In other words, the ratings of the respondents to such a question might
well be a good indication of how fat they are.
But you are also likely to find that women rate themselves to be more
fat than do men - perhaps for cultural reasons, or perhaps because they
are far more aware of their bodily shapes, or perhaps because they are
more concerned about being fat.
And so it would therefore be completely invalid to conclude that
because women perceive themselves to be fatter than men (on the basis of
this question) that they actually are fatter than men.
But this, in essence, is what is being claimed by many psychologists
and neuroscientists who use such questionnaires to measure qualities such
In other words, if women say that they are more empathic, then this
must be so.
Which is, of course, utter nonsense.
In summary: Even questionnaires that have validity in that they do
provide some reasonable measure of a certain psychological characteristic
become totally invalid when they are used to determine the differences
between men and women.
B. Accuracy In The Perception Of Emotions
A common finding among psychologists is that women appear to be able to
assess the emotional states of others more accurately that can men.
A typical experiment would be to ask subjects to respond in some way to
photographs or films and to ascertain from their responses how accurately
they perceived the emotions of others.
The problem with this is that the accuracy with which people can
identify the emotions of others does not necessarily reflect the degree of
empathy that they possess.
psychopaths are often remarkably good at assessing the
emotions of others
Indeed, one often hears it said that psychopaths are often remarkably
good at assessing the emotions of others, but that they use these skills
mostly to seek some advantage for themselves. So, are we now to conclude
that psychopaths are more empathic than are most people while, at the same
time, assuming that psychopaths are almost defined by the fact that they
have almost zero empathy?
Furthermore, given that most people seek most of the time to use their knowledge
of the world to advantage themselves in some way, it seems more realistic
to suggest that those who have better facilities in the area of
identifying emotions are more likely to use these skills for self-serving
purposes rather than for altruistic ones.
And my guess is that if men had, in fact, been found to possess such
skills in greater amount than women, then this is precisely what would
have been argued.
"Men sneakily use their superior ability to identify emotions in order
to manipulate people."
The word 'empathy' would not have entered into the picture.
In other words, the psychologists would have spun a very different
story from their findings.
Furthermore, of course, for most people, the concept of empathy has at
least three essential components.
1. An ability to identify the affective experiences of others.
2. A history of similar affective experiences oneself; i.e. one has
been through at least similar types of experiences.
3. In the case of negative affects, a genuine concern for what others might be experiencing.
But the research described above typically assesses only item 1.
As such, it seems somewhat both distasteful and unethical for
psychologists to conclude that men are less empathic on the basis of the
evidence provided by such research.
C. Brain Scan Imaging
Recent studies have suggested that various regions of the brain
concerned with the experiencing of emotions tend to become more active in
women than in men when watching scenes wherein others are suffering in
From such findings it is typically concluded that women are more
empathic than men.
But this conclusion does not inevitably follow from the
For example, it might well be the case that women are just more fearful
of what they see befalling others; perhaps because what befalls others
might well befall themselves. In other words,
their greater emotional responses might simply represent a greater concern
And, indeed - on a priori grounds at least - this seems to be a far
more plausible explanation of the findings than is the notion that a
greater empathy in women is the cause of them.
But, once again, this is the type of spin that psychologists would have
probably spun had it been found that the brains of men showed greater
"Men are more concerned for themselves than are women."
Let me put all this another way.
Imagine that groups of men and women were having their brains scanned
whilst they watched a horror movie.
Imagine that groups of men and women were having their brains scanned
whilst they watched a horror movie.
It is found that the women's brains show more emotional responses to
the film than do the brains of men.
Knowing precious little more than this, would you conclude that this
finding signified that women had more empathy than men? - or that they
were simply more scared by the movie?
In my view, the latter is far more likely to be a closer reflection of
But, of course, if I wanted more funding for my research program, then
suggesting that I had found evidence for the 'superiority' of women would
certainly be a far better tactic.
And this, in fact, is what is going on right throughout the current
Indeed, for the past four decades or so, the conclusions and the
theories of both psychologists and neuroscientists have been massively -
and invalidly - skewed in the direction of buttressing the notion that
women are superior to men.
All in all, therefore, you can discount almost everything that they say on the
differences between the natures of men and women.
This is not to say that there are no differences that have been found,
but that their interpretations of them are nearly always slanted to give
the impression that women are superior to men, and more-deserving than
And this is not science or psychology.
It is gender politics.
Indeed, as I write this, I gather that there is some evidence accruing
via brain scanning to suggest that women feel more pain than do men.
Apparently, in women, more neuronal firings take place in various parts
of the emotional brain in response to pain.
But neuronal firings do not necessarily correlate with experience.
Indeed, inhibitory neurons in the
brain are totally enmeshed and mixed up with excitatory
As such, the fact that more neurons are firing in response to painful
stimuli inside the brains of women might well be the result of women's
brains suppressing pain more effectively than men.
Finally, as a westerner, you might be forgiven for believing that women
do, in fact, have more empathy than men.
But this will mostly be because you have been living for the past few
decades in an environment which is almost totally dominated by feminist
mullahs and their cohorts of gullible, often hysterically aggressive, women - whom
people are terrified of offending.
women have nearly always been painted in a good
light, and men in a bad one.
As such, women have nearly always been painted in a good light, and men
in a bad one.
But if you simply take the time and the trouble to look at the world -
past and present - for yourself, and to think for yourself, you will
surely be astonished at just how much more have men sacrificed for the
sake of others than have women.
"Women and children first."
And no experiments by our politically corrected psychologists and
neuroscientists can ever erase that history.
So, the next time that you hear one of these 'scientists' tell you that
women are more empathic than men, please bear in mind that you are
listening to gender politics at work; not science in progress.