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Features : Editorial Last Updated: May 30, 2012 - 9:05:19 AM

Women vs. Men - Part II
By Steve Ferber
May 30, 2012 - 9:03:14 AM

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Who’s more cooperative?  Who’s happier to hear the words “I love you?” Who has more self-esteem in youth and early adulthood?  And who’s more motivated by cute baby faces?

You may be surprised by the latest research results.  Let’s start with love.

“I Love You”

Who’s quicker to say those three magic words?  It’s the guys, not the gals, according to Penn State psychologist Marissa Harrison who recently studied the matter. According to a write up in The Telegraph, the study suggests that “women tend to be more pragmatic about love than society tends to believe, perhaps not always rushing fool-heartedly into a relationship.”

Harrison, summarizing her findings, said that “Men reported falling in love sooner and three times as many men as women said 'I love you' first to their partners.”

She pointed out: “It can be argued that men's falling in love and exclaiming this love first may be a by-product of them equating love with sexual desire.” Added Harrison: “But research shows passionate love and sexual desire are distinctly different mechanisms.”

Cooperation – are women more cooperative than men?  

The answer is no, according to a major study published last year by the American Psychological Assn. which found that men are equally cooperative, “particularly in situations involving a dilemma that pits the interests of an individual against the interests of a group,” according to an APA report. Explained lead researcher Daniel Balliet, PhD, of the VU University Amsterdam: “The argument is that throughout human evolutionary history, male coalitions have been an effective strategy for men to acquire resources, such as food and property. Both hunting and warfare are social dilemmas in that they firmly pit individual and group interests against each other. Yet, if everyone acts upon their immediate self-interest, then no food will be provided, and wars will be lost. To overcome such social dilemmas requires strategies to cooperate with each other.”

Additional study results:

Women seem to reach mutual decisions more readily when interacting with the opposite sex.

Men cooperate better with other men than women cooperate with each other.

Baby Faces

Who’s more motivated by cute baby faces, men or women? Sorry Grandma, you’re not alone. Researchers from the University of Oxford, led by Morten Kringelbach and Christine Parsons, report that men are as motivated by baby faces as women. Christian Jarrett, in her study review for the British Psychological Society, pointed out that co-author Kringelback “is the same researcher who a few years ago showed that looking at baby faces, as opposed to adult faces, is associated with a distinct pattern of brain activity in the orbitofrontal cortex - a kind of neural ‘cuteness response’.”

Additional findings:
•    Conforming to cultural stereotypes, women rated babies as more attractive than men (though there was no gender difference in evaluating adult faces);
•    Not surprisingly, “cuter” infants (those whose features included a large rounded forehead, large low-set eyes, a short and narrow nose and a small chin) were rated as more friendly, cheerful and likeable and thus, more “adoptable.”

Self-Esteem in Youth & Early Adulthood

Do young men have more self-esteem than young women? Apparently not, according to researchers from the University of Basel in Switzerland who drew on 16 years of data to arrive at their conclusions. Self-esteem increases during adolescence, then slows in young adulthood, according to the researchers, but there’s no statistical difference between males and females. Said lead author Ruth Yasemin Erol, MSc, as quoted in Science News last year: “We tested for factors that we thought would have an impact on how self-esteem develops," Erol said. "Understanding the trajectory of self-esteem is important to pinpointing and timing interventions that could improve people's self-esteem."

Some of their major findings, as reported in Science News:
•    In adolescence, Hispanics had lower self-esteem than black or non-Hispanic whites, but Hispanics’ self-esteem increased more strongly so that by age 30, they had higher self-esteem than whites.
•    Blacks have higher self-esteem than whites in both adolescence and young adulthood, a differential that held through age 30.   
One major conclusion, according to Erol: “… parents, teachers and counselors may overlook self-esteem problems in male adolescents and young men because of the widespread belief that men have higher self-esteem than women have."
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