Women Are More Emotional Than Men, But Just As Rational In Their Decisions

First Posted: Apr 06, 2015 12:39 PM EDT

Men are from Mars, women are from Venus. Well, maybe not exactly, but one thing's for certain; they don't think the same way.

New research published by the Society for Personality and Social Psychology took a more in-depth look at some of these gender differences, examining why men are typically more willing to accept harmful actions for the sake of the greater good than women. The key to the findings, however, was that the moral judgments were not rooted in reasoning, but rather in emotion.

"Women are more likely to have a gut-level negative reaction to causing harm to an individual, while men experience less emotional responses to doing harm," said lead research author Rebecca Friesdorf, going against the common stereotype that women are more emotional and less rational.

In a large-scale reanalysis of data from 6,100 participants, researchers examined gender differences in judgments regarding moral dilemmas. Participants were asked 20 questions that posed various moral dilemmas that included such things as torture, murder, lying, abortion and animal research.

The study zeroed in on two contrasting philosophical principles that relate to ethics. In deontology, the morality of an action depends on the consistency with a moral norm. Eighteenth century philosopher Immanuel Kant was the most famous proponent of the theory, arguing that it was always wrong to lie. On the other hand, utilitarianism holds the believe that action is moral if it maximizes utility or the greatest good for the most people. This might mean that something was ethical in one situation and unethical in another, depending on the outcome.

Researchers found that women were more likely than men to adhere to deontological principles than utilitarian ones. However, researchers did not see a difference between genders when it came to utilitarian reasoning.

Overall, the findings suggest that women are more resistant to causing harm than men. However, both genders engage in similar levels of rational thinking regarding the outcomes of harmful action.

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