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Around the world, women empathize better than men, according to a study


Regardless of culture or family of origin, women are generally better than men at empathizing with other people, according to a new study.

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(CNN) --

No matter where in the world they live or what their cultural or family influences are, women are generally better than men at empathizing with other people, according to a study published Monday in the journal PNAS.

The researchers, from the University of Cambridge, UK, say the study is the largest of its kind to date on a particular form of empathy, something scientists call "theory of mind" or "cognitive empathy." .

Empathy is an important quality because it governs the way people interact socially and influences the way their personal relationships develop.

Cognitive empathy is when a person is intellectually capable of understanding what another person may be thinking or feeling, and is even able to use that knowledge to predict how that person will act or feel in the future.

So, for example, if a person tells you that they had a bad time with their family during the holidays, a person with cognitive empathy will understand how that bad time makes them feel by intellectually putting themselves in that other person's place, so to speak. .

It is different from another type of empathy called affective - or emotional - empathy, when one person feels the emotions of another and responds with an appropriate reaction or emotion.

For example, if someone cries over the breakup of a relationship, a person with emotional empathy would start to feel sad as well, and consequently feel compassion for that person.


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On the Cambridge University website there is a test that evaluates both forms of empathy.

In conducting this new study, the researchers used a different test, called the "Reading the Mind in the Eyes Test."

It helps measure a person's ability to recognize the mental state or emotions of another.

The test asks participants to look at photos of the area around a person's eyes.

The person makes a particular type of facial expression, and the study participant must identify what that person is thinking or feeling from a range of possibilities.

Scientists often use this test to help determine if someone has mental or cognitive problems.

Previous research has shown that people with autism, for example, tend to score lower on these tests, as do people with dementia and eating disorders, among others.

To see if cultural differences influenced empathy scores, data was collected from teams around the world.

The study authors worked at the University of Cambridge and Harvard University in the United States, Bar-Ilan University and the University of Haifa in Israel, as well as in Italy at the IMT School of Advanced Studies Lucca.

By fusing their results with large samples from different online platforms, the study authors were able to capture results from nearly 306,000 people from 57 countries, including Argentina, Croatia, Egypt, India, Japan, and Norway.

Across 36 countries, women's average scores on cognitive empathy were significantly higher than men's.

In 21 of the countries, the scores of women and men were similar.

There was not a single country in which men scored, on average, better than women.

The results were obtained in eight languages ​​and at all stages of life, from 16 to 70 years of age.

The scientists observed what author David M. Greenberg called a "shallow decline" in cognitive empathy as people aged.

"This superficial decline in empathy raises some questions about the factors that contribute to it," says Greenberg, a psychologist and researcher at Bar-Ilan University and the University of Cambridge.

The study could not determine why this decline occurs.

Greenberg said it could be partly biological;

maybe there are hormonal changes going on in the body, or it could also be something socially or environmentally impactful.

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The study also couldn't explain why women had so much more cognitive empathy than men, nor could it speak to individual differences between participants.

The study builds on previous research that came to the same conclusion: that women have higher cognitive empathy scores than men.

In some of those earlier studies, sex differences in empathy were sometimes attributed to biological and social factors.

Some animal and infant studies also show this sex difference in empathy.

It is possible that there are different genetic pathways underlying the development of this type of empathy in the different sexes.

Understanding sex differences in empathy could help researchers better understand why certain mental health problems affect men more than women.

According to the researchers, this latest study could also help scientists develop better support for people who may have difficulty reading facial expressions.

"This study clearly demonstrates a very consistent sex difference across countries, languages ​​and ages," Carrie Allison, study co-author and Director of Applied Research at the University of Cambridge Autism Research Centre, said in a news release.

"This raises new questions for future research on the social and biological factors that may contribute to the observed sex difference on average in cognitive empathy."


Source: cnnespanol

All news articles on 2022-12-28

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