January 25, 2010
Men Feel Less Guilt Than Women?

The reaction of the researchers to their findings is as interesting as the research itself.

Although changing social and cultural contexts mean guilt has less power today than it once did, a new study has shown that in the West this emotion is "significantly higher" among women. The main problem, according to the experts, is not that women feel a lot of guilt (which they do), but rather that many males feel "too little".

The idea that males feel too little guilt brings to mind a recent post by Roissy, The Medicalization of Maleness. Any time a male behaves in ways to cause widespread disapproval (e.g. Tiger Woods) experts on behavioral disorders (in Woods' case treatment for supposed sexual addiction) come out of the woodwork to proclaim the need for professional treatment. I see the use of drugs for hyperactive male school children in a similar light. The drugs might be useful. But their use rests on the idea that a more male behavioral tendency is a medical disorder.

Females feel more guilt according to these researchers.

"Our initial hypothesis was that feelings of guilt are more intense among females, not only among adolescents but also among young and adult women, and they also show the highest scores for interpersonal sensitivity", Itziar Etxebarria, lead author of the study and a researcher at the University of the Basque Country (UPV/EHU), tells SINC.

The research, published in the Spanish Journal of Psychology, was carried out using a sample from three age groups (156 teenagers, 96 young people and 108 adults) equally divided between males and females. The team of psychologists asked them what situations most often caused them to feel guilt. They also carried out interpersonal sensitivity tests the Davis Empathetic Concern Scale, and a questionnaire on Interpersonal Guilt, created purposely for this study.

When it came to comparing the measurements of intensity of habitual guilt of these groups, the researchers saw that this score was significantly higher for women, in all three age groups. "This difference is particularly stark in the 40-50-year-old age group", points out Etxebarria.

With younger women cheating on their spouses almost as much as younger men do I do not see the greater feelings of guilt doing much to restrain infidelity. Maybe the women feel worse about it but do it anyway.

Of course cheating heterosexual husbands need a woman to cheat with. Turns out lots of single women prefer taken men. Makes sense from an evolutionary perspective. A man who has a woman looks more appealing to other women because one woman already rated him as worthy.

Share |      Randall Parker, 2010 January 25 09:06 PM  Brain Sex Differences


Comments
Red said at January 25, 2010 9:14 PM:

No wonder women never take the blame for mistakes. They don't want to feel guilty!

jb said at January 26, 2010 5:04 AM:

I love the concept that "Men don't feel sufficient guilt". I guess they used the God-o-meter to assess the appropriate amount of guilt for an action based on His metrics, and simply calibrated their findings to our two mortal sexes.

Bob Badour said at January 26, 2010 7:30 AM:
The drugs might be useful. But their use rests on the idea that a more male behavioral tendency is a medical disorder.

Interesting you should say that when we have debated in the past whether autism is an illness or disorder.

Nick G said at January 26, 2010 9:14 AM:

Reminds me of a basic problem with this kind of study: reporting differences.

Single women report fewer sexual partners than single men. Married women report fewer affairs than married men. Who are these men having sex with, martians? Obviously, women are less willing to report this kind of behavior.

Nick G said at January 26, 2010 9:15 AM:

Which reminds me of an old joke:

Somewhere in the country, every 30 seconds, a woman gives birth.

We've got to find her and stop her!

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