Countless studies have been carried out to determine the physiological differences between men and women that can account for their different behaviors. There is no easy way to summarize the wide range of findings, except to say that men and women do display certain physiological differences that can impact their emotional responses to various situations. For example, one study has shown that women are more sensitive to stress hormones than men are.
However, common conceptions of women as more sensitive or more emotional might be based more on cultural perception that physiological fact. In many cases it seems that the differences between men and women have less to do with their emotional capacity, and more to do with how they express themselves. So, while men might be just as sensitive as women, their outward reaction might be more subdued or internalized.
More than likely, the complex interplay between biological and cultural factors may make it impossible to ever fully understand the differences between men and women, and without such an understanding, it is often easier to fall back on unfair generalizations, such as “women are more sensitive than men” (and to be fair, there are just as many under-justified generalizations made about men too).
On the physical end of things, women are known for having better fine motor skills than men while men have more muscle and can complete more strenuous tasks. Since women have smaller bodies, they may have a higher concentration of nerves in their fingers and other places than men do. Men have larger brains than women, but women have a slightly higher brain/body weight ratio than men throughout most of their lives. So, women may have more available brain power to devote to thinking about emotions as well as fine motor tasks. However, that is just an interpretation of data, not a proven explanation.
Response to pain is essentially subjective and depends on, “who is asking”. Gender roles in most cultures encourage a high level of stoic pain tolerance from men. This is learned at a very young age by encouraging boys to be “tough” while allowing girls to express emotion. At the same time there is an expected sensitivity among women and girls. In this sense many cultures find science to help justify gender stereotypes. There is likely a high variation in pain tolerances with respect to age, conditioning, genetics and other factors. The data is highly suspect if the male/female dynamic is the only variable that is accounted for.
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