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PLoS By Category | Recent PLoS Articles
Mental Health

The Distance Between Mars and Venus: Measuring Global Sex Differences in Personality
Published: Wednesday, January 04, 2012
Author: Marco Del Giudice et al.

by Marco Del Giudice, Tom Booth, Paul Irwing

Background

Sex differences in personality are believed to be comparatively small. However, research in this area has suffered from significant methodological limitations. We advance a set of guidelines for overcoming those limitations: (a) measure personality with a higher resolution than that afforded by the Big Five; (b) estimate sex differences on latent factors; and (c) assess global sex differences with multivariate effect sizes. We then apply these guidelines to a large, representative adult sample, and obtain what is presently the best estimate of global sex differences in personality.

Methodology/Principal Findings

Personality measures were obtained from a large US sample (N?=?10,261) with the 16PF Questionnaire. Multigroup latent variable modeling was used to estimate sex differences on individual personality dimensions, which were then aggregated to yield a multivariate effect size (Mahalanobis D). We found a global effect size D?=?2.71, corresponding to an overlap of only 10% between the male and female distributions. Even excluding the factor showing the largest univariate ES, the global effect size was D?=?1.71 (24% overlap). These are extremely large differences by psychological standards.

Significance

The idea that there are only minor differences between the personality profiles of males and females should be rejected as based on inadequate methodology.

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