Gender Differences and Aggression

Can depend upon the type of aggression under study

Men are much more likely to engage in Physical Aggression

Men and women are equally likely to engage in Verbal Aggression.

Men and Women experience aggression differently:

Cambell & Muncer (1987): Women view their aggression as often coming from excessive stress and a loss of self-control.

Males often view aggressive acts as an exercise in control over others, brought on by a challenge to their self-esteem or integrity.

Men are more likely to view their aggressive acts as positive (instrumental aggression)

Women feel more guilt and concern after being aggressive than men.

Recently, researchers have also considered indirect aggression:

Gossiping, spreading false rumors, revealing someone’s secrets without their permission.

Research in Finland showed adolescent girls are much more likely to engage in indirect aggression than teenage boys.(Bjorkqvist, Lagerspatz, & Kaukainen, 1992)

Why might women use different forms of aggression ?

Four possible reasons:

Cultural acceptance of aggression:

Girls receive more negative feedback during developmental years concerning direct, physical aggression.

Indirect aggression is therefore more socially acceptable.

Social Structure of childhood play groups differ:

Girls tend to have small, intimate play groups.

Males tend to have larger, less defined play groups.

Greater intimacy of female social patterns leads to greater chance of sharing and passing along personal information.

Relative physical strength differences (biological reason)

leads to different expectations for success in physical aggression

Females social maturity growth exceeds males growth, perhaps leading to greater reliance on indirect aggression earlier in life.



Evolutionary view of Human Behavior

Evolutionary Psychology states that all behavior is designed to perpetuate the continuance of the gene pool and ensure the survival of the species.

This evolutionary imperative contributes to gender differences in behavior.

Women try to look for a single mate with suitable economic resources who can both protect and help to raise children in the most favorable environment.

Men are trying to maximize the chance of trying to pass along their genes and value fertility and youth over wisdom and stability.

Does evolutionary theory have a basis in reality, or is it just scientific rumblings of leftover Darwinian thought ?

Consider the following two questions:

You are a parent, boating with your two young children, ages five and one. You have an accident and can only save one from drowning. Which child do you save ?

You are a parent, boating with your 40 year old daughter and your 20 year old daughter. You have an accident and can only save one child from drowning. Which daughter do you save?

Documented Sex Differences

Males Females

X Whose hands are warmer?

Whose armpits are smellier? X

Who has the best sense of smell? X

Who has the best sense of taste ? X

Who has the best sense of hearing ? X

X Who is more likely to hiccup ?

Who has more migraine headaches? X

X Who has more cluster (localized) headaches ?

X Who has a higher concentration of red-blood cells?

X Who is more likely to sleepwalk ?

Whose forehead is likely to feel warmer ? X





Social distance and cultural differences:

Proxemics: The study of spacing between individuals

(Hall, 1966)

4 social zones of interaction in America

Intimacy: actual body contact up to 18 inches. Reserved only for people’s intimate acquaintances. When this space is violated by strangers, suspicions arise. (Close-talker episode of Seinfield)

Personal Distance: 18 inches to 4 feet. Conversations between close friends and trusted accountancies occurs at this distance.

Social distance: Ranges from 4 to 12 feet. Appropriate for impersonal relationships and casual accountancies, and common in work settings.

Public distance: All distances beyond 12 feet. Traditionally found in formal situations and when dealing with high status individuals.

Social distance can effect feelings of trust, and increase or decrease the persuasiveness of a message.

People with higher self-esteem approach other people more closely than do people with low self-esteem.

Violent prisoners need three times as much free space around them in order to feel nonthreatened.

Social Time


Cultural differences abound concerning the pace of life across the world.

Levine & Wolff (1985) : Wanted to increase understanding of different societies by exploring their sense of time.

Examined the pace of life in different countries by examining three basic indicators of time: The accuracy of the bank clocks; the speed at which people walked; The average time it took a postal clerk to sell a stamp.

Different countries ranked from fastest to slowest:







Comparing Californians and Brazilians conceptions of time:

Lateness Earliness

California Average 19 minutes 24 minutes

Brazilian Average 33 minutes 54 minutes