THURSDAY, Feb. 7 (HealthDay News) -- Men are from Mars, and
Women are from Venus? Maybe not.
It's a pop psychology theory that has permeated modern culture,
but a new study debunks the premise that men and women are
irrevocably different in every way.
"A lot of people think about men and women as being different species somehow," said study senior author Harry Reis, a professor of psychology at the University of Rochester Medical Center in New York. "We wanted to hold that assumption up to rigorous scrutiny."
Reis and his co-author, Bobbi Carothers, senior data analyst for
the Center for Public Health System Science at Washington
University in St. Louis, analyzed 122 different physical and
personality traits in more than 13,000 individuals. Their findings
are reported in the February issue of the
Journal of Personality and Social Psychology.
Physical traits included weight, height, shoulder breadth, arm
circumference and waist-to-hip ratio. Psychological characteristics
included empathy, fear of success, intimacy, choice of mate and
sexual attitudes and behavior.
Sure, men and women were physically different, obviously in
terms of genital organs but also in height, weight and prowess (men
tended to throw the javelin farther and jump higher than women
did), the study found.
And certain stereotypes held true with regard to hobbies and
activities. For instance, women were more likely to be interested
in scrapbooking, pedicures and TV talk shows, while men veer toward
boxing, video games and watching pornography, the researchers
But that's where the distinctions ended.
In terms of psychology, the thinking of men and women tended to
overlap. In other words, men can be from Venus or Mars, and so can
women, although it might be more accurate to say both genders are
"We're accustomed to men having a penis and women having a vagina, then putting all kinds of attributes on them," said Dr. T. Byram Karasu, psychiatrist-in-chief at Montefiore Medical Center in New York City. "In reality, there's no such thing as men's and women's characteristics."
"Masculinity is a spectrum and there are men who are more 'woman' than women in terms of 'female characteristics' such as empathy and compassion," he added. "Femininity is also a spectrum. On one end, some females have more testosterone and aggression than most men."
So why do people tend to segregate men and women into such
"It is the drama that we love," Karasu said. "These are the roles we are given to play."
But this role-assigning may actually be harmful, Reis said. For
instance, if you attribute your mate's annoying behavior to
immutable gender traits, he or she will have no reason to
"It would make me very happy [if people started seeing] these various qualities as human differences -- qualities that some people have more of and some people have less of -- and that a person's gender is a very small piece of that," Reis said.
And what about the idea that men are from Mars and women are
"That idea should go into the trash can and, yes, you may quote me," Reis said.
Health Organizationhas more on gender.