Sex differences in empathy and related capacities

Nancy Eisenberg, Randy Lennon

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

869 Scopus citations


Reviews the literature on sex differences in empathy (defined as vicarious affective responding to the emotional state of another) and related capacities (affective role taking and decoding of nonverbal cues). The literature is discussed according to method used to assess empathy and affective role taking. Where appropriate, meta-analyses were also computed. In general, sex differences in empathy were found to be a function of the methods used to assess empathy. There was a large sex difference favoring women when the measure of empathy was self-report scales; moderate differences (favoring females) were found for reflexive crying and self-report measures in laboratory situations; and no sex differences were evident when the measure of empathy was either physiological or unobtrusive observations of nonverbal reactions to another's emotional state. Moreover, few sex differences were found for children's affective role taking and decoding abilities. (156 ref) (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2006 APA, all rights reserved).

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)100-131
Number of pages32
JournalPsychological bulletin
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jul 1 1983


  • sex differences, empathy & affective role taking & decoding of nonverbal cues, literature review

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Psychology


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