Confusing on Purpose?

One common stereotype is that women give mixed signals, especially when it comes to romantic involvement. A study at the University of Texas at Austin suggests that the sexes misunderstand one another and that there are evolutionary forces involved. The confusion may come from early human men trying to have more descendants while early human women tried to protect themselves from deception [Source: Psychology Today].

Women and Emotions

A 2001 Gallup poll asked American adults whether a series of qualities applied more to men or to women. Ninety percent of those surveyed said that the characteristic "emotional" applied more to women. The survey didn't ask about particular emotions or specify positive or negative connotations for the word "emotion." But it seems likely from the results that most Americans view women as either able to experience or prone to experiencing a wider, more intense range of emotions than men do.

Are women more emotional than men are? Do they cry more?

The perception that women cry more than men is pretty widespread. But as babies and children, boys and girls cry about the same amount on average. Only during puberty do girls begin to cry more than boys do. According to a 2005 New York Times article, by age 18, women cry four times as much as men.

A possible explanation for this is the hormone prolactin, which contributes to how much people cry. Prolactin is present in blood and tears, and it's more prevalent in women than in men. Women's tear ducts are also shaped a little differently from men's, which could be either a cause or an effect of increased crying [Source: New York Times]. In addition, people who are depressed may cry four times as much as people who are not, and two-thirds of people diagnosed with depression are women [Psychology Today].

Of course, another common explanation is that some societies encourage women to cry while discouraging men from crying. In the United States, an exception to this standard seems to be the business world. In some businesses, crying is discouraged -- a woman who cries in the office may be viewed as weak or ineffectual [Source: New York Times].

In the next section we'll look at how women handle stress.