Do personality traits differ across gender

And do those differences translate across cultures?

Last week, we talked about how age differences in personality follow a universal pattern.

But are gendered personality traits also universal?

This study dives in.

NEO Personality Inventory-Revised

A standard questionnaire has been developed according to the Five Factor Model to provide a systematic assessment of the five major domains of personality in relation to motivational, attitudinal, experiential, interpersonal, and emotional styles.

Defining each domain are six traits/facets.

This questionnaire is known as the NEO-PI-R.

For the 2001 study by Costa, Terracciano, and McCrae, this questionnaire was distributed to college-age and adult men and women in 26 countries to collect a sample size.

Results of Cultural Gender Study

As a reminder, the five factors are Neuroticism (N), Extraversion (E), Openness to Experience (O), Agreeableness (A), and Conscientiousness (C).

The data collected showed that men in the U.S. typically scored higher on E and O, particularly in facets of assertiveness and openness.

Women in the U.S. typically scored higher on N and A, but also scored higher on E and O in facets such as openness to aesthetics and warmth.

There was little difference in C between men and women in the U.S.

When compared to other countries, these gender differences appear universal.

Worldwide, men scored higher in the facets of openness to ideas, excitement seeking, assertiveness, and competence, while women scored higher in the facets of openness to aesthetics, straightforwardness, vulnerability, and anxiety.

Does this mean gender differences are biologically based, or are gender differences universally shaped in this way by each and every culture and thus adapted by each personality?

That’s a question waiting to be answered.

Progressive vs. Traditional

Was there a chasm between more progressive cultures and more traditional cultures regarding the magnitude of gender differences in personality traits?

Yes, but not how you’d expect.

You would think that the gap in gender differences in personality would be reduced in modern, progressive cultures and would be greater in traditional cultures.

But the opposite was found.

Modern European countries like The Netherlands saw a broader gap between genders than traditional countries, like South Korea.

One explanation for this may be the way such traits are attributed.

Robert R. McCrae explains,

“In countries where women are expected to be subservient, they attribute their low Assertiveness to their role as a woman rather than their traits. By contrast, European women who are equally low in Assertiveness identify it as a part of their own personality.”

Further studies might take a closer look at this seeming contradiction to get a clearer idea of this gap.

We’ll talk more about personality profiles of cultures next week.

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