There was one part of Tuesday’s lecture that stuck with me…well not only one part, but you know what I mean. We were discussing the differences in sexes when it came to reporting emotions and how women were usually better at reporting their own emotions than men. On top of that, it was mentioned that women’s emotions are experienced at a higher intensity than men. At this point in the conversation, the question was brought forward as to whether the reason women experienced a higher intensity was truly due to biological factors or whether social roles played a part.
I found a study looking at exactly this; Grossman and Wood (1993) examined the sex differences in intensity of emotional experiences through a social role interpretation. In their first experiment they asked 48 male and 37 female undergraduate students to fill out a questionnaire assessing their own emotional experiences. They were then asked to assess their stereotypic beliefs concerning men’s and women’s emotions. Their findings supported previous research in which women reported more intense and frequent emotions compared to men, except for when it came to anger. When it came to assessing their stereotypic beliefs, their findings also supported previous research which found that women believed other women experienced emotions more intensely than men. With their findings Grossman and Wood (1993) brought up an interesting interpretation; they suggested that instead of normative beliefs underlying emotional experiences, emotions underlie perceived norms. With this view, females who reported feeling more intense emotions assumed that other women also experience intense emotions, and the opposite results for men. This underlying assumed consensus may help to explain the results where an individual’s own assessment correlates with their normative beliefs. This study creates a new chicken or the egg question in terms of sex differences in emotions: which came first, social roles or true sex differences in emotional intensity?