#IMD2017 – Empathy Gap Talk

On International Men’s Day I spoke at the Messages for Men Conference on The Impact of Sex of Stimulus in Empathic Responsiveness. Below are the slides from my presentation plus my notes. When the official video goes live, I shall link to it here.



No notes for title slide.




“What is ‘The Impact of Sex of Stimulus in Empathic Responsiveness’?”

It underpins everything, it is everywhere.

Everything that has brought us here today, has been impacted by it.

It is why Feminism has been so successful, why they have been able to convince the world of the elusive patriarchy without being called tin-foil hat conspiracy theorists.

It’s why men are told to “man up” and “take it on the chin” whenever they face any form of strife or struggle, say nationally sanctioned genital mutilation, men are told to “get over it”, whereas even the slightest infraction against women, such as a hand on the knee, is considered to be of national importance. Let’s recognise the power of this, they’re essentially toppling a government with this.


Each have a clear meaning and each show a different manifestation of The Empathy Gap:

THGEG: Dictates we exhibit different levels of empathy for men and for women.

Gynocentrism: We focus and centre our efforts and energies on women (gyno).

The Pussy-Pass: Anyone who follows my blog will know of my series “Women Who Should Be In Prison” – Women receive far lighter sentences than men for the same crime (that is, when they receive sentences for having perpetrated the same crime as a man).

Male Disposability: Men are utilities, they are used then they are tossed. Like old rags. They (we) serve a purpose, once that purpose is fulfilled, we are thrown in the trash.

TBotRH: The problem is at least 1 billion years old, originating at the dawn of anisogamous sex itself, such that the protection function of males operates even at the genetic level.

The last one exposes the three dimensional nature of The Empathy Gap:

1 – Levels of Empathy exhibited by Men and Women. Men = Systemising. Women = Empathising.

2 – The Empathy Gap itself.

3 – Sex Differences in The Empathy Gap.

Dimensions 2 & 3 are those which interest me, atm.

It’s all very uplifting stuff, isn’t it!?


Read the above words from slide to the audience (no other notes for slide).




Mehrabian and Epstein’s 1972 measure was selected three reasons, one conceptual and two methodological:

1 – Define empathy as a vicarious emotional response to the perceived emotional experiences of others. This differs from Borke (1971), Dymond (1949) and Rogers & Truax (1967) because they define empathy in terms of accuracy of cognitive social insight or social/affective role taking.

2 – Can be administered with ease. It’s a pencil and paper test.

3 – The need for comparable forms of an empathy index for use with children, adolescents and adults.

The measure was found to be valid but, that’s outside the remit of today’s discussion. What I’m interested in are the results.


Numbers and the plus/minus symbols are explained in the text below the questions, is probably wise to read it out.

Fourth-grade dip caused by the cootie effect.

F/F is unaffected.

F/M & M/F both recover from it but, M/M does not, it actually gets worse.

Curiously, M/M is considerably higher than M/F at age six.

Feshbach and Roe had suggested in 1968 that sex of stimulus would play a part in empathy and later, using FASTE technology (Feshbach and Roe Affective Situations Test for Empathy), found that 6–7 year old boys were more empathic with boys than with girls, whereas the converse was true with girls. Bryant’s study here added further.

Shows that the male empathy gap starts somewhere between ages of nine and twelve.

Interaction effects were found for:

Sex of stimulus x grade. P< 0.001

Sex of stimulus x sex of respondent. P<0.001

Sex of stimulus x sex of respondent x grade. P<0.01


The primary aim of the study was to examine sex differences and age trends in self-reported empathic responsiveness, considering empathic concern, empathic distress and a more general empathic responsiveness dimension.

Empathic Distress is often seen as being related to the individual’s own negative arousal and feelings of distress and anxiety – four items measure for this.

Empathic Responsiveness was calculated using all 12 items.

I am choosing to ignore the results of the second questionnaire for the sake of time.


It is worth emphasizing that the basic trend pattern identified for the two scales of empathic concern also was found for each of the individual items making up the scales.

Graphs had to be re-drawn as they had degraded over age.

Statistical significance:

GG: P = 0.06

GB: P < 0.001

BG: P < 0.005

BB: P < 0.005



Highly likely I mispronounced that name.

This one is easy:

Already discussed Bryant’s 1982 IECA, same thing happens here.


Cross-sectional study

There was a significant main effect of gender of target, F(1,724) = 58.01, p < .001, ηp2 = .07, with a medium effect size, where empathy towards female targets was on average higher than was empathy towards male targets (ΔM = .20).


Longitudinal study.

At ‘Time 1’, participants were aged 13 – 16. ‘Time 2’ occurred a year later.

The significant main effect of gender of target, F(1, 316) = 7.34, p = 007, ηp2 = .02, with a small effect size, shows empathy towards female targets was on average higher than towards male targets (ΔM = .14).


As we see here, the effect is greater in males than in females; in every study.

In Bryant, final male gap is easily 4-5x larger than final female gap.

In Olweus & Endreson, it is 4-5x larger.

In Stuijfzand et al, it is twice as large.


Here it is in effect.

(The image to the right is an animated gif, reproduced below.)

boy saves girl from hose.gif









(In the presentation, I failed to yawn so thus was unable to infect the audience with the yawn contagion. I was such a fool to miss that excellent opportunity.)

Inform audience that seeing, hearing and even reading about a yawn can elicit a reaction so, they should prepare themselves.

Mirror neurons fire when an animal performs an action, as well as when it perceives another animal performing the same action.


Suffers from small sample size.

Not only do other species exhibit The Empathy Gap but, it is old af.

“Original divergence” between genus’ Pan and Homo may have occurred as early as 13 million years ago (Miocene), hybridization may have been ongoing until as recent as 4 million years ago (Pliocene).

Demuru & Palagi repeated this study with humans, mentioned there was no interaction between sex of trigger and respondent. May require further reading.



“Our finding on a non-human ape, the bonobo, supports the idea that the link between yawn contagion and a basic from of empathy is not due to evolutionary convergence but it is, instead, a common ancestral trait shared by monkeys and apes, including humans.

The higher frequency of yawn contagion between individuals belonging to different genders (Figure 4a) and in presence of a female as a triggering subject suggests that bonobo males are more affectively reactive towards females, who constitute the core of social groups. Massen and co-workers recently demonstrated that, in chimpanzees, male yawns were far more contagious than those of females. In addition, individuals of the dominant and bonded sex (i.e. males in Pan troglodytes) infected each other at the highest levels. Even though our findings have to be taken with caution due to the small sample size of adult males, in bonobos yawn contagion appears to support the hypothesis that adult females not only represent the relational and decisional nucleus of the society, but also that they play a key role in affecting the emotional states of others.”

These results suggest Yawn Contagion is modulated by kinship and social hierarchy, hence why yawn contagion is higher when female is stimulus in bonobos but higher for males in chimpanzees.

Massen et al. study:


Study shows that yawn contagion is significantly higher when the video model is a yawning male than when the video model was a yawning female, and that this effect is most apparent among males. As males are dominant in chimpanzee societies, male signals may be more relevant to the rest of the group than female signals. Moreover, since chimpanzees form male-bonded societies, male signals are especially relevant for other males.


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