Correlation Between Masculinity And Empathy


Correlation Between Masculinity And Empathy Essay, Research Paper

Correlation Between Masculinity and Empathy

Many psychological studies have been carried out over the years in the topic of personality, in aiming to grasp the type of factors that are involved in bestowing us the personalities that we hold. Most people will have probably come across various personality tests at some stage or another, which ask you lots of questions and then analyze your results in trying to categorize what kind of personality you’ve got.

One of the most fascinating aspects of personality is the issue of gender roles in our personalities. One would expect men generally have more masculine traits than feminine ones, and women tend to have more feminine traits than masculine ones. Sandra L. Bem (1974), a psychologist, developed a personality test known as the BSRI test (Bem Sex Role Inventory), which tries to separate the male and female aspects of your personality to see if your personality consists of predominantly masculine (instrumental), predominantly feminine (expressive), or androgynous (both instrumental and expressive). According to Taylor and Hall, masculinity is defined by instrumentality and femininity by expressiveness. Both variables have proved their validity in previous investigations (as cited by Schenk and Heinisch, 1985).

Coherently, empathy has been defined in many ways. In JPI-R’s emotional cluster, it is referred to a person’s emotional responsiveness toward other people (Jackson, 1994). A high scorer on this scale might be tended to identify closely with other people and their matters. He concerned with others and upset by other’s misfortunes. In contrast, a low scorer tended not to allow feelings to intrude on decision-making. He displayed little compassion, emotionally unresponsive to those around him.

In an empirical research, Watson, Biderman and Sawrie (1994) proposed that empathy is often considered as a feminine strength. Moreover, they stated that ” ?K?K(empathy) should be directly associated with socially undesirable femininity/immature dependency and should be compensated by and thus inversely related to the socially desirable aspects of masculinity” (Watson, Biderman and Sawrie, 1994, p.706). Moreover, the Personal Attributes Questionnaire (PAQ) and the Mehrabian and Epstein empathy measure were administered and found a significant negative correlation between empathy, an expressive attribute, and masculinity. Hence, between masculinity and empathy, there ought to be a negative correlation (as cited by Foushee, Davis and Archer, 1979).

However, many debates questioned on the negative correlation between masculinity and empathy, an analyses from Schenk and Heinsch (1985) found no significant correlation between empathy and masculinity and femininity to males and females. A research from Karniol, Gabay, Ochion and Harari (1998) even presented positive correlation between masculinity and empathy.

In light of the above, the purpose of the current study was to illustrate the relationship between masculinity and empathy, by rehypothesizing that both variables develop a positive correlation between them.



Participants are one hundred and forty eight undergraduate students enrolled in introductory psychology course for course credit at University of Western Ontario. The sample represents Canadian multicultural population of age in 20’s. Of a hundred and forty eight participants, twenty of them did not complete the study and were dropped from all subsequent analyses. As a result, all the data we account were based on a hundred and twenty remaining participants.


In this study, BSRI scale was assessed on masculinity (instrumentality) and femininity (expressiveness); the JPI-R scale was assessed on personality traits.

The Bem Sex Role Inventory (BSRI), written by Sandra L. Bem (1974), was used to the masculinity and/or femininity of the participants using 20 items representing masculine traits, 20 items representing feminine traits, and 20 filler items which are considered neutral with respect to common stereotypes. Participants ranked each item on how closely each item related to them individually. The BEM ranked each item on a scale from 1 to 7, with a lower score indicating that the item was never or seldom true, and a higher score indicating the item was often or frequently true.

Sandra L. Bem (1974) administered the BSRI to two groups of college students: Stanford and Foothill Junior. She reported an internal consistency reliability coefficient in the Stanford sample (Masculinity a= .86; Femininity a= .80) and Foothill sample (Masculinity a= .86; Femininity a= .82) respectively for the Masculinity- Femininity scale. This constitutes a moderate or high reliability. Furthermore, the Stanford sample wore the BSRI twice, the second with four weeks interval from the first administration. The test- retest reliability revealed coefficients (Masculinity r= .90; Femininity r= .90), which represented a very high liability.

On the validity of the studies, methods of Criterion Validity and Convergent Construct Validity were administered in her studies. She obtained the criterion validity by differentiated by the relationship on personality characteristics from masculinity and femininity between the BSRI scale and her criterions. In addition, predicting and correlating with scores on BSRI scale showed its convergent construct validity. Hence, masculinity and femininity are independent variables empirically and logically.

The JPI-R, which was developed by D. N. Jackson (1994), is a revision of the original Jackson Personality Inventory. The JPI-R assesses personality variables relevant to the functioning of a person in a wide range of settings such as those involving work, educational/organizational behavior, or interpersonal situations. The JPI-R contains a total of 300 True/False items, representing 15 scales. The JPI-R’s 15 scales are as follows, organized in terms of five higher-order clusters: Analytical (Complexity, Breadth of Interest, Innovation, Tolerance), Extroverted (Sociability, Social Confidence, Energy Level), Emotional (Empathy, Anxiety, Cooperativeness), Opportunistic (Social Astuteness, Risk Taking), Dependable (Organization, Traditional Values, Responsibility). The statistical procedures employed in the construction of the JPI are among the most elaborate ever employed for a personality test. Starting with a very large item pool, two separate item analyses on separate samples were undertaken to further three general aims. First, it maximizes item content saturation in relation to desirability variance. Second, it maximizes scale reliabilities. Finally, it minimizes inter-scale redundancy.

The items on the JPI-R are the same as those included in the original JPI. Accordingly, findings bearing on the JPI’s psychometric properties are applicable to the JPI-R. From current college standardization samples and a sample of students from University of Rhode Island, the two college samples developed a median on internal consistency reliabilities. Both (Bentler’s Theta) were identical to .78, which represented moderate reliability. Data on JPI validity include analyses of two multi-trait multi-method matrices employing adjective checklist (r= .66), self rating (r= .76), and peer ratings (r= .32) on empathy. Hundreds of correlations of JPI scales with a variety of criteria, ranging from occupational preferences to attitudes toward marijuana use, are reported in Jackson’s (1994) manual.


The study was administered with two different sessions in a lecture hall. Before participants received the BSRI and the JPI-R, they were given an informed consent form, which stated the purpose of the research. The informed consent also informed the participants that their participation was voluntary in the study, and they could refrain from answering any question(s) at any time during the testing period. All consent forms were read, and signed before the administration of the study. With no time limit, the Bem Sex-Role Inventory and the revision of Jackson Personality Inventory were administered, and collected from the participants as they completed the survey. Afterward, participants were thanked for their time and participation, and left the hall.


All statistical tests were used an alpha level of 0.05. The scales of Bem Sex-Role Inventory (BSRI) and Jackson Personality Inventory (JPI-R) were used to measure the relation between masculinity and empathy. Correlation analysis was used to test the hypothesis, that the mean of masculinity (M= 4.98, SD= .71) and empathy (M= 12.81, SD= 3.67) had found a significant negative correlation among them, r (126) = -.15, p * .05.


It was hypothesized that there is a significant positive correlation between masculinity and empathy. Results showed that the study did not produce a statistically significant effect, which cause not to reach conventional level of statistical significance due to chance in difference. This result did not agree with our hypothesis. This study failed to replicate the positive correlation in relationship between masculinity and empathy.

These results are in partial agreement with previous research. We found that there is a significant negative correlation between masculinity and empathy. This study replicated the result from findings of Watson, et al., PAQ and Mehrabian and Epstein empathy measure. Nevertheless, this study did not replicate results for our hypothesis.

There is a limitation in generalizing the present results. Because our sample consists of university students and does not include any students who are in male-dominated fields such as science and medicine, our sample is not perfectly representative of university, society or whole population. Generalization of the present results must be only to the population similar to this sample. Students who are in male-dominated fields, young people who are not students, and people in a different age, cultural, socioeconomic group may have different gender role perceptions and show different results from the present study. Another limitation may lie in the method we used. Although we randomly picked the participants’ ratings either for men or for women, originally the participants rated the desirability for both men and women. Therefore, there is a possibility that their ratings are exaggerated due to the contrast. Further study using a different method in which one person rates the desirability only for one gender is necessary to overcome this limitation. As psychologists and groups developed their own scales, the assessment of masculinity- femininity and personality orientation by scales and measurements has decisively different by divergent perspective. Lastly, despite the widespread use and evaluation of different scales, their method of test construction might be critically needed to reassess (Schenk et al, 1985). Most psychologists and research groups constructed their scales in reflecting their cultural, biological, socioeconomic or sexual differentiation. This might result in misleading pieces from the study. To conclude, assumption of extraneous variables control, representative samplings, reliability and validity should be considered before conducting and evaluating on particular study.

In the future research, one important avenue for future research is to find better ways to perform studies similar to this one. Other scales, in different fields of knowledge could lead to distinct results or could obtain similar results, strengthening the conclusions. The use of more than one method could also lead to more complete answers. Therefore, variations of the approach utilized in this study should be explored, or new alternatives attempted, in order to obtain a more complete method. Moreover, future studies should also try to compare different types of observers, and specialists. For example, a comparison of observers that took part in the development of the prototype, against independent observers could generate important results. The cultural background and gender of the observers are topics to be studied in future studies. Studies that could research the use of more than one observer simultaneously as a way of avoiding bias, or for verification of results could also generate important results.


Bem, S. (1974). The measurement of psychological androgyny. Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, 42, 155-162.

Foushee, H.C., Mark H. Davis & Richard L. Archer (1979). Empathy, Masculinity, and Femininity. Human Experimental Psychology, 9, 85-86.

Hoffman, M.L. (1977). Sex Differences in Empathy and Related Behaviors. Psychological Bulletin, 84, 712-722.

Jackson, D. N. (1994). Jackson Personality Inventory – Revised Manual. Port Huron: Research Psychologists Press.

Karniol, R., Rivi Gabay, Yael Ochion & Yael Harari (1998). Is Gender or Gender- Role Orientation a Better Predictor of Empathy in Adolescence. Sex Roles, 39, 45-59.

Schenk, J. & R. Heinsch (1985). Self-Descriptions by Means of Sex-Role Scales and Personality Scales: A Critical Evaluation of Recent Masculinity and Femininity Scales, Personality and Individual Differences, 7, 161-168.

Watson, P. J., Michael D. Biderman & Steve M. Sawrie (1994). Empathy, Sex Role Orientation, and Narcissism. Sex Roles, 30, 701-721.


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