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Borkenau et al., 2013

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24 Comments to “Borkenau et al., 2013”
  1. Susie McHugh says:

    I found reading the article on gender variability in personality traits to be informative and interesting, producing results that can be applied to a world of cultural constructs governed by gender. While it has always been clear to me that gender variables are deeply rooted in so many of our daily living spheres, the idea of greater variability in males’ personalities than females’ was one that was completely new to me, and not something I think I intuitively would have thought of. Props to the authors and this line of research for bringing this to light.

    What spoke loudest to me was the variability in variability (Lol 🙂 across cultures, that is, how greater variability was found in males from individualistic than collectivistic cultures. Since first learning the definition of a collectivistic culture, I was drawn to the “togetherness” and mutual care within a family that seemed to characterize people’s lives. Now that I’m actually asking myself, I think that because of this emphasis on family values, I subconsciously thought of collectivistic cultures as superior to our own individualistic United States. In our culture, I see so many of my peers and younger people (including myself) become more and more engrossed in our devices, less interested and in touch with human interaction, and possibly as a consequence, less likely to care for family members as they age. (Please understand that I mean this on a gross cultural level, or trend – I know plenty of us are selfless, thoughtful caregivers.)

    This article turned my thoughts, though, to the evolutionary advantages of promotion of the individual. While, again, I tend to view this as a problem that propagates issues like smartphone addiction and narcissism (think Selfie Culture), variability in a culture is what brings evolutionary advantage to a species. Homogeneous species with greater levels of inbreeding have greater chance of disease, and diversity breeds the individuality that leads to a species’ innovation and development. Borkenau et al., however, cite the even greater variety within individualistic cultures’ still-today-male-dominated “vocational sphere” (i.e., the workforce), versus the higher presence of women in homes caring for families (2013). As this greater male variability may be an advantageous consequence for males, specialized efforts in individualistic societies may be warranted to get women out of the homes (what a creative, new idea!) so that as a gender, we may access varied opportunities for success. I think an awesome example of this is the recent efforts to get more young women involved in STEM fields.

    Finally while I find this study to have been conducted with high-quality efforts (e.g., large sample size spanning many world cultures), I wish to comment on the limited utility of findings that the authors of this study foster. For such important research that seems to truly extend what we know about men and women, and how our individualities evolved differentially, future directions on how this knowledge can be utilized in industrial or clinical psychology, as well as socio-political ways, would be valuable for the authors to have reported. As most journals on psychological research are likely consumed by psych researchers, I worry that this valuable research may not properly extend itself into the lives of the men and women it is meant to serve. More concrete recommendations for utility of the research could bring the potential of this study to fruition. (I admit that I am unaware of the extent to which this research was disseminated outside of the journal it was published in, e.g., in magazines and blogs consumed by the public, which would have addressed my current criticism.)

    • Tiara Newson says:

      Well put Susie. I also did not think about this topic. I wouldn’t have event expected for men to vary in personality, I honestly would have thought women would. It seems they would show their personality traits a little more because of women being known to express their emotions more, I would believe this would connect to individual personality traits being displayed through expression of emotion. But that may just be why men varied for all personality traits except for neuroticism, because women aren’t asked to voice opinions as often as men, especially in places such as work. They are only asked when it involves emotions, which some would correlate to neuroticism when it comes to women.

    • Chalana Martin says:

      Susie this was very well put and I agree with you completely.

    • Ashley Olivera says:

      Great point Susie! I was also surprised by the greater variability displayed among men’s personalities as well. I was surprised to find that men were seen as more talkative compared to women, given men tend to be more antisocial and less likely to express their feelings and emotions compared to women. The preconceived notion of men having to “be a man” and not display any feelings of weakness or vulnerability can explain why we think this way. Either men are more emotionally open than we (as women) originally thought, or men are just more talkative in terms unrelated to emotional expressiveness.

      • drcb says:

        Men weren’t more talkative, but they were AS talkative as women (Mehl et al., 2007). Men had a higher SD in talkativeness.

    • Gabriella Robinson says:

      I agree with many of your points Susie, the paper had high quality data checks, something Hande and I want to discuss in our presentation. Additionally your points about the author speaking on male’s in particular made me think of when they were arguing for the social-role explanation.

    • Melissa Henao says:

      Hi Susie,

      I really liked how you mentioned the differences in men and women among different cultures and how we may see it in our homes. You mention that compared to our cultures, it is not unheard of to see USA culture to become more engrossed on their phones and less into caring for families as they age. This made me think of my family’s culture and how we are so dedicated to look after grandparents that it is so shocking to hear of grandparents or parents in nursing homes. Though my idea is a little far fetched from what the article spoke about, it is interesting to see how much of an effect culture and where we grow up has such a huge impact on things like family values.

  2. Tiara Newson says:

    Well put Susie. I also did not think about this topic. I wouldn’t have event expected for men to vary in personality, I honestly would have thought women would. It seems they would show their personality traits a little more because of women being known to express their emotions more, I would believe this would connect to individual personality traits being displayed through expression of emotion. But that may just be why men varied for all personality traits except for neuroticism, because women aren’t asked to voice opinions as often as men, especially in places such as work. They are only asked when it involves emotions, which some would correlate to neuroticism when it comes to women.

    • Tiara Newson says:

      Hi, this is not a reaction post, it is a comment to Susie’s post. Sorry for any confusion!

  3. Chalana Martin says:

    I found this article to be very interesting. Different cultures view both men and women from different perspectives. Apparently, in some cultures men are viewed as superior to women, while in others women are attributed to a higher personality. Besides, in some culture the personality of both men and women is equal. In the past few decades, there has been a global campaign geared at achieving gender equality. The campaign has been aimed at carrying out public awareness on the equality between men and women. In this study, Borkenau, McCrae, and Terracciano (2013) sought to answer the question on personality variation between men and women. They narrowed their study to 51 cultures, using a total of 12,156 respondents who were college students from different cultural origins. The study established that men vary more than women in terms of personality. The variance is however influenced by specific cultural perceptions of both men and women.
    On a personal account, personalities vary between individuals. Critically, both men and women have different personalities based on their cultures. For instance, in some cultures men are viewed superior to women based on their societal responsibilities. On the other hand, women are viewed as inferior based on inferior responsibilities given. In such cultures, the personality of men varies from that of women. On contrary, in some cultures both men and women are allowed to perform similar responsibilities. In such cultures there are no certain duties specifically reversed for either men or women. As a result, both women and men have similar personalities. Generally, the aspect of personality variation between men and women is highly influenced by cultural aspects. As evidenced in a study by Borkenau, McCrae, and Terracciano (2013), the cultural origin determines personality differences between men and women.

  4. Melissa Henao says:

    When I first read the title to the this article, I definitely did not expect it to be a study going in the direction it was going in. I was actually surprised and did not know that previous studies before have shown that men vary in personality more than women. I feel like there is that “stereotype” that goes around that “all men are the same”, which is definitely said mostly by women. So while reading that there was more variation in the informant report women made about men, I found that to be a little funny. Something I also was wondering while reading about the results was if men scored lowered in variation on their self report because they do not recognize variety in their traits or is it because starting at such a young age, men are taught to repress feelings and emotions and thats why they do not subconsciously pick up on it on themselves and others or is it because they just don’t pay mind to it as much? I think of times where I am in an outing and group setting with friends. There are instances where someone might make a facial expression that reflects they’re annoyed or upset; my female friends and I pick things like this up immediately, where as if its brought up to the males, most of the time they do not pick up on it at all or read it in a complete different way. This kind of coincides when the author mentioned that one of the reasons there is such variability in women’s response could be because females differentiate more strongly than men. So while reading this study and then thinking about my experiences, no matter what direction it can go to, I can really see how these differences are carried out and affect our daily life. I also agree with how culture plays a huge part of personality differences. When looking at my culture, theres almost two main types of parenting because of our parent’s personality and all my friends that share the same culture as me, all of our parents fit one of the 2 categories. Where as friends that do not share the same culture, there are definitely some greater differences. I really enjoyed this article and appreciated reading it as a basis to learning how men vary more than women in personality.

    • Melissa Chavez says:


      I can relate to your example with your friends. When I’m in a group with friends, I’ve noticed that the men also do not react to little things that many of my girl friends and I would quickly pick on. I think you’re on the right track on questioning if it has something to do with men repressing their emotions. Since men do not really express their feelings specifically , their attention is most likely on the subject of the conversation and expressing opinions or facts about other things instead of acknowledging how the person may feel.

    • Aditya Kulkarni says:

      Hello Melissa,

      I also went into this article with the same expectation that perhaps the men were simply using more binary descriptors for the women, simply labeling them almost on a 1/0 basis of having the trait or not, but their follow up analysis on page 141, reveals that 25/30 facet scales for the means were actually more extreme when described by females than males (more 1/0s from females contrarily). I think something else to think about is on the basis of partners, do men choose women who are more similar in personality to them than do women who choose, partners, which based on our prior assumption would suggest that woman may pick a partner that though seems similar to a male informant, would have discernible nuances when rated by a female informant, whereas a male informant would not see the differences in partner choice. But the findings of this article would point to an opposite trend in individualistic cultures.

    • Katie says:

      Hey Melissa,

      I had a similar thought. Overall, women tend to be higher in emotional intelligence, so it makes sense that women would pick up on intricacies of male personality more so than men would with women. Perhaps this would explain why the self-reports of men don’t reflect these personality differences in the same way. Interesting!

    • drcb says:

      “stereotype” that goes around that “all men are the same”

      That’s a funny (true) point. It seems pretty specific though in tone (i.e., a “men just want sex” kind of stereotype), rather than an all-encompassing men all have the same personality meaning.

  5. Daniel Saldana says:

    What I found most interesting about Borkenau, McCrae, & Terracciano (2012) is that it concerned not just sex differences but the variability in intrasex differences—i.e., personality. Immediately, when talking about personality, as discussed in class and in various studies, I think about its many facets and the many factors affecting how it is molded. I enjoyed that the study incorporated multiculturalism on a large scale, taking into consideration gender inequality, the level of human development, and the type of society that was predominant (e.g., collectivistic vs. individualistic). I have to say, I was at first a bit surprised by the results that men’s personalities were seen as more variable in individualistic cultures versus collectivistic cultures. I often think of collectivistic cultures as inclusive of peoples who have the greater good of the community in mind, and that, in turn, that would offer people greater opportunity to express their personality. It’s the idea that if everyone is watching out for everyone else (or emphasizing the needs of the group over the individual), then it would grant someone a greater buffer to experiment with their expression of self. However, the explanation that in countries with greater individualism, men have more opportunities for behavioral variation, given their greater involvement in the occupational sphere makes more sense. My thoughts now return to more of an evolutionary explanation for the cross-cultural variations that we see here, coupled with genetic influences. If evolutionary processes offer men greater freedom in personality expression, due to not being restricted to a mating strategy that prioritizes high parental investment, would we see the same sort of results if we were to, say, rate animal personalities. I’m thinking back to the dog personality paper we read in class a few weeks ago. Although a bit outlandish, it may be interesting to see that not only are we capable of accurately rating animal personalities, but that variabilities in those personalities are similar to variabilities found in humans. All of this being said, I still have trouble finding the relevance of this in more of a practical, clinical setting. So, we understand that perhaps men’s personalities are more variable than women’s personalities, and that, further, this is affected, to a degree, by the socioeconomic, cultural standpoint of a society—what can we do with this? Although interesting, my criticism for this study would be to have a “future directions” or “impact” section where the results of this study are discussed, in the context of clinical practice, or otherwise.

    • Susie McHugh says:

      Danny, well said! I think you and I had very similar reads of this paper. I agree that the authors should have discussed future directions, and also agree that collectivistic cultures, at my own face value, seem more advantageous to species’ thriving.

  6. Aditya Kulkarni says:

    Aditya Kulkarni
    Personality and Individual Differences
    Professor Claudia Brumbaugh
    Friday, May 4, 2018
    Blog #5

    This final week I’ve chosen to reflect on the Borkenau et al. (2013) paper, “Do men vary more than women in personality? A study in 51 cultures.” Firstly, I must say hats to off the research team for adding in a full explanation of X-inactivation in the introduction to forward why it might be that the tempering of gene effects from two X-chromosomes may explain the more homogenous behavioral characteristics among females than males, who are sadly unto their fate with their one X and one mutated X (otherwise known as the Y gene). In much the same vain as others above me, I too was taken aback that between men of individualistic cultures and men of collectivistic cultures, there is much more heterogeneity in personality. However, one of the instrumental confounds addressed in this study is one of informant gender: does the informant’s gender itself present as an interactive term? I really appreciated the analytical level this week of not only looking at the means, but actually looking in the “tails of the distribution” to find where the overrepresentation of the sex lies. According to Table 7, the college-aged sample found more men with extreme levels of Warmth, Openness to Fantasy, Openness to Ideas, Openness to Values, Straightforwardness, Competence, which added in a level of anger, competition, and hostility as the adult sample was analyzed. This made me wonder if whether we are dealing with a cohort-level effect, as the lines between genders blur in a postmodern world, do cohort-sequential studies hold up without an inclusion of birth year of cohort as a covariate? I also wondered whether men were simply using more binary descriptors for the women, simply labeling them almost on a 1/0 basis of having the trait or not, but their follow up analysis on page 141, reveals that 25/30 facet scales for the means were actually more extreme when described by females than males. Another question I had at the end of the study is when do these differences become apparent? There seems to be some bridging point in which the behavioral characteristics and personality traits seem to diverge between the sexes, and in the discussion, Else-Quest, Hyde, Goldsmith, and Van Hulle (2006) found no significant variance differences between boys and girls, thus either the measure is not sensitive enough, our rating ability is not developed enough, or perhaps an important peer-socialization engenders the gene-mediated tempering of our selves? Really statistically interesting article and a pleasure to read.

    • Emnet Gammada says:

      Interesting post Aditya, I also appreciated the authors validating their exploration of sex differences through genetic hypothesis (differences at the fundamental level of X and Y chromosomes).

    • Caroline Nester says:

      Yes – Aditya – I too was drawn to the very same portion of the introduction. Its so fascinating to think of genetic level sex differences in personality! So almost counter intuitive. This article makes a compelling argument that men vary more in personality; however, it is interesting that in many societies men often have more constrained or proscribed manners of behavior or ways in which they are able to express their “personality” – one easy example is think of women’s fashion vs men’s – women have WAY more opportunities to deviate from the from the norm and to express their individuality. I wonder how this came to be if men’s underlying genetic personality tendencies are more diverse…

      • Daniel Saldana says:

        Great post Aditya–I too enjoyed the effort they put in explaining the genetic level hypothesis about why men vary more than women. Caroline, I too had similar thoughts about men vs. women’s behaviors and how women have greater opportunity (e.g., clothing) to deviate from what is expected. Contrasting it to their discussion of genetic level sex differences in personality would make it seem counter-intuitive. However, the constraint and proscription that we see of men’s behavior is arguably found in patriarchal societies. I wonder if we would see the same in more matriarchal societies. Nevertheless, does not take away from the results of this study.

    • Safa Shehab says:

      Aditya, I also wondered whether these results were driven by women’s increased tendency to be more descriptive in their reports. The study could have compared how men vs. women tend to describe men to see if the variability in target personality is decreased when only men were reporting target personality.

      • Lexi says:

        I agree with both of you. This article reminded me of how parents’ own traits can influence the reporting of their infants’ characteristics. It also makes me wonder how helpful “controlling for gender” is in some research studies when there is such variability within.

  7. Hande says:

    Everyone had such great input about this article I am excited to share what Gabriella and I came up with.
    Caroline, the point you made about how women & men are different in regards to how much they can deviate from their gender-consistent fashion choices was not something we thought about but a very interesting point to brainstorm on.

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