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Women are better than men on a test of "cognitive empathy"

Women are better than men at putting themselves in other people's shoes and imagining what the other person is thinking or feeling, according to the largest theory of mind study to date of more than 300.000 people in 57 countries.

The researchers found that women of all ages and in most countries score higher than men on the "Read Mind in the Eyes" test, a test that measures "theory of mind," also known as "cognitive empathy".

Cognitive Theory of Mind or Empathy is the human ability to put yourself in the shoes of others and imagine the thoughts and feelings of the other person and understand and anticipate their behavior.

The test of "Reading the mind in the eyes"

One of the most widely used tests to study the theory of mind is the "Reading the mind in the eyes" test (Eyes Test), which asks participants to choose which word best describes what a person is like when looking at photographs of the eye region of the face.

The results of the study

A team of multidisciplinary researchers led by the University of Cambridge and with collaborators at Bar-Ilan, Harvard, Washington, Haifa and IMT Lucca universities, he merged large samples from different online platforms to analyze data from 305.726 participants in 57 countries.

The study, published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, is the largest theory of mind study to date.

The results showed that in all 57 countries, women on average scored significantly higher than men (in 36 countries), or similar to men (in 21 countries), and there was no country where men on average scored higher than men (in XNUMX countries), or similar to men (in XNUMX countries), and there was no country where men on average scored score significantly higher than women.

“Studies on average sex differences say nothing about an individual's mind or aptitudes, as an individual may be typical or atypical for their sex. But the eye test does reveal that many people have difficulty reading facial expressions," concluded Professor Simon Baron-Cohen, Director of the University of Cambridge Autism Research Center and lead author of the study.

“This study clearly demonstrates a largely consistent sex difference across countries, languages, and ages. This raises new questions for future research into the social and biological factors that may contribute to the observed average sex difference in cognitive empathy,” explained Dr. Carrie Allison, a team member and Director of Applied Research at the Center for Autism Research. from Cambridge University.

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