10 Gender Stereotypes That Science Supports

by admin on September 7, 2010

For centuries, men and women alike have been fighting against gender stereotypes that pigeonhole them into being a particular type of person or having certain personality traits. While on a whole, men and women are very similar both in their brains and in their abilities, there are some stereotypes that have held strong for a reason– because they are very often true. With new research, now there may even be modern medical science to back them up. Of course, all these stereotypes, despite whatever scientific evidence there is to support them, should be taken with a grain of salt. It’s easy for expectations about the outcomes of scientific studies to influence the actual outcomes, and recent studies have shown that differences between men and women are inconsequential compared to the similarities. Regardless, it can still be fun and interesting to examine the way our gender influences how we act and how we see the world around us–whether we fall into the stereotypes or not.

  1. Men are better than women at driving. While female drivers might not be the dangerous, fender bending, crazies they are depicted in movies as being, there is some scientific evidence to support that men are better when it comes to driving than women. Why is this? Studies have shown that men are better at navigation and at orienting themselves in three-dimensional space. Some researchers think this is due to early man having to go out to hunt and return home again with dinner and is related to testosterone levels in the body. And it isn’t just women, the study also found that homosexual men were less likely to excel at driving as well. Despite the stereotype, and the science that supports it, that same testosterone can lead to men taking more risks and driving more aggressively, the reason insurance premiums are so much higher for males than females.
  2. Women are cleaner than men. This holds true for personal as well as household cleanliness but it might not just be due to laziness or housekeeping ineptness in men. In fact, researchers think that it has to do with women simply having a better sense of smell than men. While structurally male and female olfactory senses are the same, the way that smells are processed in the brain differs. Women actually use a larger part of their brain to process smells, making them better able to pick up on things like stinky socks, body odor and rotting take out containers that might fly under the radar of men. It is this ability to pick up on body odor in particular that researchers think is the reason for the difference, allowing cro-magon women to better tell when males were ready to mate. Think that sounds silly? A woman’s sense of smell peaks in sensitivity when she’s ovulating.
  3. Men feel less pain than women. This isn’t to suggest that it’s impossible to cripple a man with pain (try aiming for the family jewels and you’ll see just how much pain a man really can feel) or that women are huge wimps when it comes to pain. It’s just that men and women’s bodies are set up differently when it comes to sensing and processing pain information. Women actually have more pain receptors in their skin, making even small bumps and bruises more painful for them than their male counterparts. And when men do get hurt? They just don’t feel it as much due in part to a small protein that men have in greater supply than women. This protein affects both the pain threshold and the ability of painkillers to work on the body, causing women to sometimes need double the amount of painkiller to get the same amount of relief. Of course, there is one instance where the situation is reversed: childbirth. During childbirth, a woman’s body is hopped up on enough endorphins and natural painkillers to dull (at least a little bit, as any woman will tell you it still hurts like the dickens) the intense pain of the process.
  4. Women are more intuitive. Ever felt like your mom, girlfriend or best friend could read your mind? While women might not be mind readers studies have shown that they are better at picking up on subtle cues that are often nonverbal and unconscious. Research has documented that women consistently score better than men at both remembering the physical characteristics of others and correctly identifying the information being transmitted through facial expressions, tones of voices and body posture. Scientists think it is an evolutionary trait related to having to guess whether a fussy child is hungry, cold or in need of closeness. Moms better at reading cues had better luck at keeping offspring alive, passing on the skill to the next generation. Men in multiple studies were found to be less adept at guessing at the emotions of others, though both sexes have a hard time seeing through perfidious emotions, such as a fake smile.
  5. Men can drink women under the table. Men have an advantage when it comes to drinking more than women in that they’re simply often larger and bulkier than their female counterparts. Of course, the ability of men to pound down beer after beer and feel little effect has deeper roots than just body size. The reason behind the difference is due to the water to fat ratios in male and female bodies. Men have more water in their bodies, helping dilute their alcohol intake naturally. And women don’t just have a disadvantage at this stage either, but as the alcohol moves to their liver they have less of the enzyme that helps them to kill the intoxicating effects of liquor, making them get drunk more quickly and more thoroughly than men. Of course, there are always differences among individuals as some women can out drink men and some men can only handle a few beers before falling over.
  6. Women talk more than men. The stereotype that women like to talk, talk, talk and then talk some more might hold a some weight when it comes to science. It seems that the part of the brain that processes language and helps support verbal ability is proportionally larger in the female brain than the male. This may mean that females have superior language skills to men. And since they’re better at talking and communicating what they want through verbal cues, women tend to talk more than men. How much more? One study stated that women use around 20,000 words a day, 13,000 more than the average man. Additionally, some research suggests that women speak more quickly and that communication gives women a natural high, making talk a much more satisfying activity for them than men. Does this mean men don’t talk? It’s simply not the case. Other studies have shown that men can be pretty chatty too, but more keen on focusing their talk on sports and gadgets than on relationships and everyday occurrences.
  7. Men are more aggressive and more likely to act out in anger. It’s not that women don’t get angry or really want to yell, scream and kick something, but that their brains are just better at dealing with anger than men. Research indicates that men are often more aggressive and act out in anger because the part of the brain that modulates aggression is smaller in men than it is in women. Both genders can produce anger and aggression with equal aplomb, but it is women that can better reign it in and cool down. This isn’t to suggest that men aren’t able to control their emotions, specifically anger, but that they have a much harder time in general doing so because they have been genetically shortchanged. Studies have also pinpointed the genetic origins of aggression to two genes, both creating individuals who are more prone to belligerent and sometimes violent outbursts The anger reducing power of women was found to carry over to controlling these genes as well, and men carrying them who grew up in nurturing loving homes were found to be more docile and less aggressive than those who did not.
  8. Women are more emotional than men. Movies and TV would have you believe that women cry at the drop of the hat and can’t handle even a simple crisis without freaking out. Female hysteria has been a stereotype that has dogged women for ages, causing men and women alike to question their ability to lead companies, governments and even their own families. Are women really more emotional than men? Well, sort of. Women and men have been found to be equally emotional, experiencing the same levels of sadness when exposed to a sad external stimulus. The difference is not in the feeling of emotion it is in the expression of emotion, with women being much more likely to show sadness and pain than men. However, women are much more prone to emotional stress than men, due to a stress hormone that can send their emotional state spiraling. Men, accordingly, had little reaction to the hormone, helping them keep their cool in situations the women found quite stressful. Both studies show that women are not really more emotional than men but that they have a harder time dealing with emotional stress (due to medical reasons outside of their control) and feel more socially comfortable expressing how they feel.
  9. Men have no savvy for color. We’re all familiar with the stereotypical situation where a woman holds up several very similar paint swatches and asks a man to help her choose between toffee, cappuccino, taupe and beige. Of course, the man can’t tell the difference and audiences laugh at the frivolousness of the woman or the seeming stupidity of the man, depending on their sex. Research shows that this inability to see subtle color differences isn’t a product of a male indifference to design or fashion. It’s actually biological. The gene for seeing red is only carried on the X chromosome, leaving men at a serious disadvantage when it comes to inheriting the ability to see the full color spectrum. it’s also the reason that pretty much no females are color blind. Women also have the ability to be tetrachromats, seeing more colors than the average person, sometimes up to a hundred million different shades. Researchers think the color seeing advantages of women date back to when they were the primary gatherers for the family. Being able to tell poisonous foods apart from similar looking non-poisonous ones was key to survival.
  10. Women have less of a sex drive than men. It’s been ingrained into our culture that men are the sexual ones are women just put up with it. Of course, the reality is far more nuanced than that and many women are extremely sexual and want to have sex with men as much as they want to have sex with females. The difference between the sexes lies in that, for women, sex is more than just physical. Research has shown that the male libido is strong and that male sexual desires are pretty straightforward, meaning they can become aroused easily and what arouses them isn’t too hard to pin down. Women, on the other hand, are much more sensitive to environment, context, emotional state and social and cultural factors. Women are often unsure of just what turns them on and are much more likely to be fluid in their sexual preferences than men. And if you don’t know what you want, or who you want it with, you can be less likely to actively seek it out. Of course, there are exceptions to every rule and rates of infidelity between spouses that hover at around the same percentage for both men and women are enough to demonstrate that both sexes are interested in sex and sex with different partners.

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