New research suggests that women are instinctively more selfless than men, a finding that remains true even among women who identify with male traits.
Yale University researchers performed meta-analysis on 22 studies and discovered that even women who emanate power, dominance, and independence are still more philanthropic than men.
“We live in a society where women are expected to be altruistic, much more so than men,” said Dr. David Rand, associate professor of psychology and economics, and corresponding author of the study.
“So women suffer more negative consequences for not being altruistic, which leads to them to develop intuitive responses that favor generosity.”
For the study, Rand and Victoria Brescoll at the Yale School of Management along with co-authors Jim Everett, Valerio Capraro, and Helene Barcelo, analyzed the role gender plays in responses in the Dictator Game. This game tests economic self-interest of individuals by asking them how they would split money with a stranger.
The study appears in the Journal of Experimental Psychology.
In previous research, Rand had found little difference between men and women in how intuition affects cooperation, where people work together to create mutual benefits.
Both men and women were less likely to cooperate with others when they had a chance to deliberate and think carefully about their decision.
However, in experiments that measure altruism — or giving without the possibility of receiving anything from the recipient — only women tended to be more generous when nudged to respond quickly, or intuitively. Men were found to be more selfish regardless of whether acting intuitively or deliberating.
Interestingly, say the researchers, this held true even for women who viewed themselves as having traditionally masculine traits such as power, dominance, or independence.
When nudged to deliberate, however, the women who viewed themselves as having more masculine traits were, like men, less likely to be altruistic.
Women who viewed themselves as having more traditionally feminine traits — such as compassion and kindness — continued to be altruistic even when given the chance to deliberate on their choice.