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Sex differences in emotional intelligence

Emotional intelligence (EI) involves using cognitive and emotional abilities to function in interpersonal relationships, social groups as well as manage one's emotional states. It consists of abilities such as social cognition, empathy and also reasoning about the emotions of others.[1]

The literature finds women have higher emotional intelligence ability than men based on common ability tests such as the MSCEIT.[2] Physiological measures and behavioral tests also support this finding.[3][4][5][6]

Emotional intelligence

Emotional intelligence (EI) involves using cognitive and emotional abilities to function in interpersonal relationships, social groups as well as manage one's emotional states. A person with high EI ability can perceive, comprehend and express emotion accurately, and also has the ability to access and generate feelings when needed to improve one's self and relationships with others.

Women tend to score higher than men on measures of emotional intelligence, but gender stereotypes of men and women can affect how they express emotions.[7] The sex difference is small to moderate, somewhat inconsistent, and is often influenced by the person's motivations or social environment.[7] Bosson et al. say "physiological measures of emotion and studies that track people in their daily lives find no consistent sex differences in the experience of emotion", which "suggests that women may amplify certain emotional expressions, or men may suppress them".[7]

According to the Four-Branch Model of Emotional Intelligence model, there are four abilities that exist for emotional intelligence:[8][9]

  1. Perception – the ability to detect and decipher emotions in faces, pictures, voices, and cultural artifact. Also includes the ability to identify one's own emotions. Perceiving emotions represents a basic aspect of emotional intelligence, as it makes all other processing of emotional information possible.[8][9][10]
  2. Facilitation – the ability to use emotions for various cognitive activities such as thinking and problem solving as well as interacting with others. An emotionally intelligent person can capitalize fully upon his or her changing moods in order to best fit the task at hand. An example of this includes a person using their emotions to motivate themselves.[8][9]
  3. Understanding – the ability to process emotion language and understand why someone, including themselves, might feel a certain way. Understanding emotions also encompasses the ability to be sensitive to slight changes between emotions, and the ability to recognize and describe how emotions evolve over time.[8][9]
  4. Management – the ability to manage one's emotions as well as manage emotional relationship with others. An emotionally intelligent person can also use any type of emotions and apply them in pursuit of a goal.[8][9]


Mayer-Salovey-Caruso Emotional Intelligence Test (MSCEIT)

The Mayer-Salovey-Caruso Emotional Intelligence Test (MSCEIT) is used to get emotional intelligence IQs (EIQ).[11] It is the most widely used test for the ability of emotional intelligence (AEI),[12] and is well-validated.[13] Much of the evidence for ability EI is based on the MSCEIT, partly because it was the only test available to measure EI ability. It is also the only omnibus test to measure all four branches of the EI ability model in one standardized assessment.[11] The area scores include experiential EIQ and strategic EIQ. Experiential EIQ includes being able to recognize emotions to compare them to other sensations and their connection to the thought process.[11] Strategic EIQ focuses on the meaning behind emotions, how emotions affect relationships, and how to manage emotions.[11] After area scores, branch scores include four different sections: perceiving emotions, using emotions, understanding emotions, and managing emotions.[11] Using these categories, the test analyzes people's ability to perform tasks and solve emotional problems or situations.[11] No self-perceived assessments are used in the test; it is an objective assessment of a subject's ability to solve emotional problems.[14]

A 2010 meta-analysis published in the Journal of Applied Psychology by researchers Dana L. Joseph and Daniel A. Newman found that women scored higher than men by around half a deviation, which amounts to 6–7 points difference.[3]

Test of Emotional Intelligence (TIE)

The Test of Emotional Intelligence (TIE) focuses on measuring perception and comprehending emotions and the ability to use emotions and manage them. It is considered to be the Polish equivalent of the MSCEIT.[15]

Sex differences

Social cognition

Every day, people use social cognition subconsciously, as it is part of most modern society. Social cognition is an important part of emotional Intelligence and incorporates social skills such as processing facial expressions, body language and other social stimulus.[16]

A 2012 review published in the journal Neuropsychologia found that women are better at recognizing facial effects, expression processing and emotions in general.[6] Men were only better at recognizing specific behaviour which includes anger, aggression and threatening cues.[6]

In 2014, a meta-analysis of 215 study sample by researcher A.E. Johnson and D Voyeur in the journal Cognition and Emotion found overall female advantage in emotional recognition.[4]

Two 2015 reviews published in the journal Emotion review also found that adult women are more emotionally expressive,[17][18] but that the size of this gender difference varies with the social and emotional context. Researchers distinguish three factors that predict the size of gender differences in emotional expressiveness: gender-specific norms, social role and situational constraints, and emotional intensity.[18]


A 2014 meta-analysis, in Cognition and Emotion, found overall female advantage in non-verbal emotional recognition.[4]

A 2014 analysis from the journal Neuroscience & Biobehavioral Reviews also found that there are sex differences in empathy from birth,[5] growing larger with age and which remains consistent and stable across lifespan. Females, on average, were found to have higher empathy than males at all ages, and children with higher empathy regardless of gender continue to possess high empathy throughout development in life. Further analysis of brain tools such as event related potentials found that females who viewed human suffering had higher ERP waveforms than males, an indication of greater empathetic response. Another investigation with similar brain tools such as N400 amplitudes found higher N400 in females in response to social situations which then positively correlated with self-reported empathy. Structural fMRI studies have also found females to have larger grey matter volumes in posterior inferior frontal and anterior inferior parietal cortex areas which have been correlated with mirror neurons indicated by the fMRI literature. Mirror neurons are crucial for many if not most aspects of empathy. Females were also found to have a stronger link between emotional and cognitive empathy. The researchers use The Primary Caretaker Hypothesis to explain the stability of these sex differences in development. According to the hypothesis, prehistoric males did not have the same selective pressure as women and this led to sex differences in emotion recognition and empathy.[5]

See also


  1. ^ Mayer JD, Roberts RD, Barsade SG (2008). "Human abilities: emotional intelligence". Annual Review of Psychology. 59 (1): 507–36. doi:10.1146/annurev.psych.59.103006.093646. PMID 17937602. S2CID 11801336.
  2. ^ Barrett, Lisa Feldman; Lewis, Michael; Haviland-Jones, Jeannette M. (2016). Handbook of Emotions, Fourth Edition. Guilford Publications. p. 379. ISBN 978-1-46-252536-2.
  3. ^ a b Joseph DL, Newman DA (January 2010). "Emotional intelligence: an integrative meta-analysis and cascading model". The Journal of Applied Psychology. 95 (1): 54–78. doi:10.1037/a0017286. PMID 20085406. S2CID 11238077.
  4. ^ a b c Thompson AE, Voyer D (2014-01-01). "Sex differences in the ability to recognise non-verbal displays of emotion: a meta-analysis". Cognition & Emotion. 28 (7): 1164–95. doi:10.1080/02699931.2013.875889. PMID 24400860. S2CID 5402395.
  5. ^ a b c Christov-Moore L, Simpson EA, Coudé G, Grigaityte K, Iacoboni M, Ferrari PF (October 2014). "Empathy: gender effects in brain and behavior". Neuroscience and Biobehavioral Reviews. 46 (4): 604–27. doi:10.1016/j.neubiorev.2014.09.001. PMC 5110041. PMID 25236781.
  6. ^ a b c Kret ME, De Gelder B (June 2012). "A review on sex differences in processing emotional signals". Neuropsychologia. 50 (7): 1211–21. doi:10.1016/j.neuropsychologia.2011.12.022. PMID 22245006. S2CID 11695245.
  7. ^ a b c Bosson, Jennifer K.; Buckner, Camille E.; Vandello, Joseph A. (2021). The Psychology of Sex and Gender. Sage Publications. p. 330. ISBN 978-1-54-439403-9.
  8. ^ a b c d e Mayer, John D.; Roberts, Richard D.; Barsade, Sigal G. (2008). "Human Abilities: Emotional Intelligence". Annual Review of Psychology. 59 (1): 507–536. doi:10.1146/annurev.psych.59.103006.093646. PMID 17937602. S2CID 11801336.[verification needed]
  9. ^ a b c d e Fiori, Marina; Antonietti, Jean-Philippe; Mikolajczak, Moira; Luminet, Olivier; Hansenne, Michel; Rossier, Jérôme (2014-06-05). "What Is the Ability Emotional Intelligence Test (MSCEIT) Good for? An Evaluation Using Item Response Theory". PLOS ONE. 9 (6): e98827. Bibcode:2014PLoSO...998827F. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0098827. ISSN 1932-6203. PMC 4046984. PMID 24901541.[verification needed]
  10. ^ Hildebrandt, Andrea; Sommer, Werner; Schacht, Annekathrin; Wilhelm, Oliver (2015-05-01). "Perceiving and remembering emotional facial expressions — A basic facet of emotional intelligence". Intelligence. 50: 52–67. doi:10.1016/j.intell.2015.02.003.[verification needed]
  11. ^ a b c d e f Fiori, Marina; Vesely-Maillefer, Ashley K. (2018). "Emotional Intelligence as an Ability: Theory, Challenges, and New Directions". Emotional Intelligence in Education. The Springer Series on Human Exceptionality. Springer. pp. 23–47. doi:10.1007/978-3-319-90633-1_2. ISBN 978-3-319-90633-1. S2CID 149528965.
  12. ^ Pool, Lorraine Dacre; Qualter, Pamela (2018). An Introduction to Emotional Intelligence. John Wiley & Sons. p. 53. ISBN 978-1-11-911442-0.
  13. ^ Dukes, Daniel; Samson, Andrea; Walle, Eric (2022). The Oxford Handbook of Emotional Development. Oxford University Press. p. 470. ISBN 978-0-19-259793-9.
  14. ^ Zumbo, Bruno D.; Hubley, Anita M. (2017). Understanding and Investigating Response Processes in Validation Research. Springer. p. 25. ISBN 978-3-31-956129-5.
  15. ^ Kaliská, Lada; Pellitteri, John (2021). Eastern European Perspectives on Emotional Intelligence: Current Developments and Research. Routledge. p. 222. ISBN 978-1-00-034685-5.
  16. ^ Frith CD (June 2008). "Social cognition". Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society of London. Series B, Biological Sciences. 363 (1499): 2033–9. doi:10.1098/rstb.2008.0005. PMC 2375957. PMID 18292063.
  17. ^ Chaplin TM (January 2015). "Gender and Emotion Expression: A Developmental Contextual Perspective". Emotion Review. 7 (1): 14–21. doi:10.1177/1754073914544408. PMC 4469291. PMID 26089983.
  18. ^ a b Fischer A, LaFrance M (2015-01-01). "What Drives the Smile and the Tear: Why Women Are More Emotionally Expressive Than Men". Emotion Review. 7 (1): 22–29. doi:10.1177/1754073914544406. ISSN 1754-0739. S2CID 147007218.
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Sex differences in emotional intelligence
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