Gender Differences in the Experience of Emotions

emotions

A meta-analysis by Else-Quest and colleagues (2012) examined many of the stereotypes about men’s and women’s emotions. The stereotypes hold that women experience more guilt, shame, and embarrassment, and men typically experience more pride. But is that true?

The stereotypes were examined in a sample representing 236,304 individuals, and the results are presented below. Note, there is a difference between experiencing emotions and expressing them. This meta-analysis used self-reports to find out how emotions are experienced across genders.

One of the primary findings in the meta-analysis is that women experience more guilt and shame, although the association was only significant in some samples. Experiencing shame lowers self-esteem. Also, shame and guilt has been associated with different mental illnesses such as depression, anxiety and eating disorders that display gender differences.

Men tend to report greater self-esteem, although the gender differences are small.  Interestingly enough, the emotions of embarrassment and pride shows gender similarities, therefore the stereotypes mentioned earlier about embarrassment and pride are inaccurate.

So it seems that men and women experience many of the same emotions at a very general level, despite guilt and shame, but the way the genders express the emotions may vary a lot.

Gender role socialization, i.emasculine and feminine gender roles, seems to play an important role in why genders express emotions differently: Girls are encouraged to express various emotions, but not anger and pride, whereas boys are more encouraged to control their emotions and express emotions such as pride. As a result, girls may express emotions more frequently.

Photo: Daniele  Zedda