Friday, September 6, 2013

Sex Differences and Personality

Whether sex differences affect our personality, whether there is any association between sex, gender and personality has been an important issue among the social psychologists and psychologists. Many social distinctions are made between men and women based on the fact of their difference in sex. Some of these, such as differences in dress, rest almost entirely on the necessity of identifying the members of each sex. Many distinctions, however, rest on the belief that the women are physiological different men, they must also be psychological different. The division of labor along sex lines is in part grounded on this

Support, in form of scientific evidence, for the popular view that men have more general intelligence than women is entirely lacking. It must be pointed out in this connection, however, that none of the  present-day tests that are used to measure intelligence really measure the native capacity uninfluenced by social experience and training. They rather tend to measure the acquisition of knowledge in a particular environment. From these tests, no doubt, something of the innate ability may be judged, but until better tests are devised for measuring inherited capacity alone, any conclusion as to the differences in mentality that are due to sex differences, rather than to the training received, must be tentative.

There is an even more popular presumption that women must be emotionally different from men because they are constitutionally different. Both temperaments and emotions are known to be influenced by the functioning of the endocrine glands, in which the sexes do differ somewhat. The theory seems plausible enough, but he evidence is not decisive.  In the first place, it must be remembered that the tests of emotionality and personality are still comparatively crude and inaccurate. There are no tests which even make pretence of measuring inherited personality traits as separated from environment and training.

An attempt has been made to surmount the environmental difficulties by testing infants, but to date there are no clues as to what, if any, the inherited sex differences may be. This may be due to the fact that many characteristics may not be visibly present at birth, but come into view with maturation. Studies of animals suggest that males are genetically more aggressive than females, although the evidence is not conclusive.

It is found that, while there may be inherent emotional differences between men and women, culture may distort and change the expression of these differences. In America, cosmetics are made largely by the women, but in many cultures most of the preening is done by the males. Indeed the personalities of the sexes may change even in a given culture, with the passage of time.

In no two societies are the two sexes treated and trained exactly alike. From infancy, the boys and girls are given different toys and kinds of plays, different work, different schooling, different incentives and ideals, all determined by the prevailing culture. When boys are taught to be aggressive and to scorn the so-called “feminine” pursuits, it is small wonder that four times as many women as men say they “ like to decorate a room with flowers”, while the reverse is true for “ Repairing electrical wiring”. As the girls, in Pakistani society, are taught to be submissive before their men, they are taught to be faithful, dependent on their men, shy, loyal and frugal housewives. But the boys instead are taught to be courageous, handworker, decision taker etc.  So general is this cleavage of behavior in our society that we are tempted to believe that the activities approved for each sex are the result of inborn tendencies.

Evidences, anyhow, support the hypothesis that, while there may be inborn differences between men and women, culture plays a very important role in fashioning the psychological traits that men and women show at any given time.

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