The most incisive guide to issues facing the American family today . . . An invaluable resource for anyone wishing to stay on the cutting edge of research on family trends.

-W. Bradford Wilcox
Associate Professor of Sociology, University of Virginia 

Cardinal Feminist Claim Debunked

Bryce J. Christensen and Robert W. Patterson

For some time, what political theorist Jeffrey Bell brilliantly calls “adversarial feminists” have sought to ignore the differences between men and women, undermining the sexual complementarity that once made marriage such a bargain for both sexes. But a study by researchers at the University of Manchester and the University of Turin casts serious doubt on the de minimis view of sex differences.

Based on data collected from a survey of 10,261 American adults, this study tests and finds implausible the politically correct view aggressively pushed by both the media and academia that “males and females are similar on most, but not all, psychological variables. That is, men and women, as well as boys and girls, are more alike than they are different.”

To assess the relative similarity of males and females, the researchers analyze their data using fifteen personality scales:

Warmth (reserved vs. warm), Emotional Stability (reactive vs. emotionally stable), Dominance (deferential vs. dominant), Liveliness (serious vs. lively), Rule-Consciousness (expedient vs. rule-conscious), Social Boldness (shy vs. socially bold), Sensitivity (utilitarian vs. sensitive), Vigilance (trusting vs. vigilant), Abstractness (grounded vs. abstracted), Privateness (forthright vs. private), Apprehension (self-assured vs. apprehensive), Openness to Change (traditional vs. open to change), Self-Reliance (group-oriented vs. self-reliant), Perfectionism (tolerates disorder vs. perfectionistic), and Tension (relaxed vs. tense).

The researchers then cluster these personality scales into five “global scales” for clarification:

Extraversion (Warmth, Liveliness, Social Boldness, Privateness, and Self-Reliance), Anxiety (Emotional Stability, Vigilance, Apprehension, and Tension), Tough-Mindedness (Warmth, Sensitivity, Abstractedness, and Openness to Change), Independence (Dominance, Social Boldness, Vigilance, and Openness to Change) and Self-Control (Liveliness, Rule-Consciousness, and Perfectionism).

As the researchers scrutinize the data, they see not similarity but striking differences between the sexes. The “largest differences” are in “Sensitivity, Warmth, and Apprehension (higher in females), and Emotional stability, Dominance, Rule-consciousness, and Vigilance (higher in males).” The researchers find these differences in congruence with “the classic sex differences in instrumentality/expressiveness or dominance/nurturance.”

Summing up what they label as a “striking” multi-variable pattern of psychological differences separating the sexes, the researchers underscore an “extremely large effect, corresponding to an overlap of only 10% between the male and female distributions (assuming normality).” Indeed, even when the researchers decide to set aside the largest single difference (that is, the difference in Sensitivity) and then to re-calculate their statistical results, they still found a very sizable pattern of overall separation between the sexes with only “24% overlap assuming normality.”

Even the decision to temporarily set aside the largest single difference between the sexes—that is, the difference in Sensitivity—raises serious questions. After all, “Sensitivity is not a marginal aspect of personality.” Sensitivity actually “overlaps considerably with ‘feminine openness/closedness,’” previously identified by other researchers as a “cross-culturally stable dimension of sex differences in personality.”

Having documented large and pervasive the personality differences separating the sexes, the researchers can advance only one conclusion: “The idea that there are only minor differences between the personality profiles of males and females should be rejected.” Because “any meaningful debate on the origins of sex differences in personality needs a firm grounding in accurate empirical data,” this “substantial improvement” in the data can foster a more honest discussion of human nature that adversarial feminism has been working overtime in Gnostic-like fashion to deny.

(Marco Del Giudice, Tom Booth, and Paul Irwing, “The Distance Between Mars and Venus: Measuring Global Sex Differences in Personality,” PLoS One 7.1 [January 4, 2012]: e29265.)