A large-scale study has concluded that men really are more analytical – and women are more empathetic and good at understanding emotions.
The study could also throw new light on autism, the researchers say.
The University of Cambridge study tested more than 680,000 people, and concluded that women are more likely to understand the emotions of others.
Men, by contrast, are more likely to understand ‘rules based systems’, such as how things work.
The research suggests that autistic people could have an extreme version of this ‘male brain’ which makes it difficult to read emotions.
The researchers found that among women, 40% scored highly for empathy, compared to 24% of men and 13% of autistic men.
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The study was based on the responses of 671,606 people who answered an online quiz for a Channel 4 programme called Are You Autistic?
Dr Varun Warrier, from the Cambridge team, said: ‘These sex differences in the typical population are very clear.
‘We know from related studies that individual differences in empathy and systemizing are partly genetic, partly influenced by our prenatal hormonal exposure, and partly due to environmental experience.
‘We need to investigate the extent to which these observed sex differences are due to each of these factors, and how these interact.’