A study from the University of Waterloo in Ontario, Canada shows that women do, in fact, apologize more frequently than men do. This isn’t exactly news, as it’s already a widely-accepted stereotype. The surprising result, though, was that women and men are equally as likely to apologize when they believe they’ve done something requiring an apology; the difference is that men are less likely to believe that they’ve done something requiring an apology:
If you think you hear women saying “I’m sorry” more than men, you’re right. Women apologize more often than men do, according to a new study.
But it’s not that men are reluctant to admit wrongdoing, the study shows. It’s just that they have a higher threshold for what they think warrants reparation. When the researchers looked at the number of apologies relative to the number of offenses the participants perceived they had committed, the researchers saw no differences between the genders.
“Men aren’t actively resisting apologizing because they think it will make them appear weak or because they don’t want to take responsibility for their actions,” said study researcher Karina Schumann, a doctoral student in social psychology at the University of Waterloo in Ontario, Canada. “It seems to be that when they think they’ve done something wrong they do apologize just as frequently as when women think they’ve done something wrong. It’s just that they think they’ve done fewer things wrong.”
Some bloggers are of the opinion that this means that men are displaying male privilege in their lack of ability to notice when they’ve done something wrong. As Jill of Feministe noted, “So it’s not just that women have a knee-jerk “I’m Sorry” reflex — it’s that men really don’t think they have anything to be sorry for.”
This… isn’t really the case, though. As noted later in the article,
Schumann and her colleagues conducted two studies to see if genders do indeed differ in how often they apologize, and if so, why this might be.
In one, 33 university students ages 18 to 44 kept an online dairy for 12 days documenting whether they apologized or did something they thought required an apology, even if they didn’t actually say they were sorry. They also kept track of how often they felt someone had committed an offensive act against them that warranted an apology.
Women apologized more and reported committing more offensive acts, but both men and women apologized about 81 percent of the time when they deemed their actions offensive.
Men were also less likely to report being victims of wrongdoing. This led the researchers to investigate whether men are just not offended as easily, and less likely to think they’ve done something objectionable.
Interestingly, I was made aware of this story from a Tweet by Amanda Marcotte, in which she also claims that the study is proof of men’s inability to get past their own ever-present male privilege:
Ha! Study shows not just that men apologize less, but it’s basically because of the blindness of privilege.
If the results were indeed the shining example of male privilege in action that some feminist bloggers are inexplicably painting them to be, the men involved would not have reported being the “victims or wrongdoing” less frequently as women did, or just as frequently as they believed others to be deserving of an apology. The men in question simply do not determine the same things to be worthy of an apology as women do, whether the alleged offense was directed at them, or by them. What is certainly worth noting, though:
Women might have a lower threshold for what requires an apology because they are more concerned with the emotional experiences of others and in promoting harmony in their relationships, Schumann speculated.
Here’s what I think: the results of the study are interesting, and
feministall bloggers need to carefully read articles before they blog or Tweet about them.