Harry

Especially For Young Women

 
   

 

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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.

 

questionnaire filling in form

A. Questionnaires

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 seen here.)

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 gender differences.

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 as empathy.

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.

 

happy face cartoon

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.

 

brain scan imaging

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 some way.

From such findings it is typically concluded that women are more empathic than men.

But this conclusion does not inevitably follow from the findings.

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 for themselves.

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 emotional reactions.

"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 the truth.

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 psychological literature.

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 them.

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 neurons.

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.

Titanic

Titanic

"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.

Also see, ...

First-Class Tribute to The Men of Titanic 

Dr Lewis Wolpert: The Differences Between Men and Women  

 



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