Empathy and Gender: Are Men and Women Complementary or Opposite Sexes?

  • Mohammadreza Hojat


  • Findings from a large number of gender studies indicate that women in the general population and in health professionals-in-training and in-practice often obtain higher scores than men on self-reported measures of empathy.

  • There are some plausible explanations for gender differences in empathy. For example, women are endowed with a greater capacity for social relationship than men, evident by the observations that they often begin showing more sensitivity to social stimuli and emotional signals and demonstrate more care-oriented qualities at an early age.

  • Although social learning and cultural values have important role in determining gender differences in social behavior and empathy, other factors such as human evolution history (e.g., sexual selection, parental investment in child rearing, and ancestral division of labor), constitutional dispositions, and hormonal and biophysiological factors also contribute to the differences.

  • Evidence suggests that some of the gender differences could be pre-wired beyond social or observational learning.

  • Although in a broader context men and women are more similar than different, accumulated evidence continues to confirm that gender differences in some personal qualities and mental abilities should not be considered as trivial or nonexistent.

  • The fact that some of the gender differences are in favor of women (e.g., “communal” inclination, verbal ability) and some in favor of men (e.g., “agentic” inclination, spatial ability) implies that in social skills and mental abilities, men and women should be viewed as “complementary” rather than “opposite” sexes.


Gender differences Complementary versus opposite sexes Maternal investment Division of labor Agentic Communal Hormonal differences Biophysiological differences Inborn sensitivity Social stimuli Propensity to social interaction Decoding emotional signals Verbal ability Aggressive behavior Caring attitudes 


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© Springer International Publishing Switzerland 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  • Mohammadreza Hojat
    • 1
  1. 1.Sidney Kimmel Medical College Thomas Jefferson UniversityPhiladelphiaUSA

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