Israeli-US study finds couples lean on gender stereotypes

Men and women tend to lean on stereotypes in areas that are more emotional.The saying that “men are from Mars, women are from Venus” is apparently backed up by new joint research at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem and the …

Men and women tend to lean on stereotypes in areas that are more emotional.The saying that “men are from Mars, women are from Venus” is apparently backed up by new joint research at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem and the University of Pennsylvania.

Men tend to project their own feelings upon their romantic partners more than women do, while women are better at describing their feelings and those of their romantic partners. This was disclosed in a study by graduate student Dana Atzil Slonim and Dr. Orya Tishby of HU’s Baerwald School of Social Work and Social Welfare, in cooperation with Prof. Jacques Barber and Dr. Carol Foltz from Pennsylvania.

In some issues of relationships, the researchers felt that old male-female stereotypes tended to influence the responses.

“Both sexes tend to lean on stereotypes in those areas that are more emotional, such as independence, the fear of being abandoned, fears in general and sexuality. In these areas, it would seem, the partners are not aware of the true thoughts and desires of the other,” said the researchers.

They concluded on this basis that “this shows the great importance of open communication – especially in emotionally laden topics – as a tool for reducing conflicts and improving the quality of couples’ lives.”

The research was conducted in the US among 97 couples – married and unmarried – between the ages of 18 and 46. Using a questionnaire, the researchers checked the sensitivities of couples in three areas: participants’ wishes or desires regarding their romantic partners; the perceived response of how their partner would respond to these wishes; and their own responses to their partners’ responses.

The couples were asked to answer the survey in two ways: to evaluate their relationships on the basis of the questionnaire, and to rate how their partners would respond to the same issues raised in the questionnaire.

The results of the survey showed a high consensus among couples regarding a desire to avoid conflict, as well as in the perception of feelings of love, sensitivity and caring for each other. This was found to be especially true among the married couples. The results showed that those couples were more similar in their attitudes toward one another than even they thought.

Despite this, there was a low level of agreement about perceptions on some specific issues. For example, the survey showed that men rated women as much more apprehensive about being abandoned, than the women rated themselves, and the women rated the men as much less apprehensive of being abandoned than the men rated themselves.

Also, the women rated the men as more independent than the men considered themselves, while the men rated the women as more fearful and less interested in sex than the women rated themselves.

Overall, the results showed that the women were much more accurate than the men in describing the perceptions of their partners.

Printed by courtesy of The Jerusalem Post.

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