We’ve all heard or experienced the fact that women seem to have more empathy than men, but this doesn’t have to be a negative thing. Before we lived in modern times, men would hunt, work on shelters, protect, gather materials, and in general, do more tasks geared toward survival. Women, on the other hand, took the role of the caregiver, the nurturer, and the peacekeeper. Women would stay near the shelters to gather food, take care of the children, bond with other moms nearby, and do more of the “emotional labor” that comes along with raising children.
Today, in our modern world, much about these traditional roles have been changed, however, the chemicals that cause women to have more empathy than men still exist. Obviously, women and men are different in many ways, and this includes the hormones that make up each of them. We associate men with being tough, protecting their families, and showing aggressive behavior at times. This happens due to high levels of testosterone, whereas women obviously have lower levels. In this article, we’ll talk about what exactly causes men to be less sensitive than women, and why this might be a positive thing.
Research Reveals Why Men Are Less Sensitive Than Women (And Why It’s A Good Thing)
According to a study in the journal Psychoneuroendicinology, testosterone actually reduces connectivity in brain regions that control feeling empathy towards others, and how we use that emotion to make decisions. In other words, men have more testosterone, which makes them less concerned with connecting emotionally to others. Is this bad? Well, it can be frustrating(especially if you’re a woman), but men naturally feel less emotions in order to take care of survival. Despite modern society’s tendency to steer clear of gender roles, men are hard-wired to not let their emotions get in the way of logical thinking, in order to protect their families and not get caught up in emotional turmoil.
The research in the study linked above was done by scientists from Utrecht University. The researchers aimed to confirm conclusions reached in previous studies in which women performed better than men in tasks that measured empathetic abilities. During these studies, participants had to complete Reading the Mind in Eyes Tests (RMET), in which they had to determine the emotions of the person they looked at solely from their eyes.
The researchers believed that testosterone made the males perform worse than the females, so they designed a new experiment to see how the hormone influenced success, all while tracking the effects of testosterone on the brain.
The researchers gathered 16 female participants, and used functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) to measure their brain activity while they completed the RMET. By looking at the brain scans, they found that a brain region called the inferior frontal gyrus (IFG) became activated when they had to link an emotion to an image, which suggests that this part of the brain plays an important role in empathizing with others.
After this, the researchers gave half of the participants a large dose of testosterone, which would raise their blood levels of the hormone by ten, while the other half received a placebo.
After the females repeated the test, researchers found that those who had been given testosterone took significantly longer to identify the emotions represented in the pictures compared to those given a placebo, which suggests that testosterone does indeed inhibit one’s ability to empathize with others.
Furthermore, FMRI scans during the second test showed reduced connectivity between the IFG and two other important areas – the anterior cingulate cortex (ACC) and the supplementary motor area (SMA) – after the researchers administered testosterone. The ACC plays a role in transforming emotional states into overall cognitive processes, while the SMA controls initiation of voluntary actions.
Based on this conclusion, the researchers suggest that testosterone inhibits one’s ability to empathize with others, and use these feelings in decision-making and actions. Since they didn’t measure the behavioral effects of higher testosterone levels, however, they can only speculate how this hormone would affect real-world interactions.