What are the causes of sex differences and similarities in behavior? Some causes can be traced to human evolutionary history, especially the ways that the division of labor is influenced by biology and environments. A human universal--in all known societies--is a division of tasks so that men do some things in society and women do others (Wood & Eagly, 2002). The specific activities in a society depend on what tasks can be performed most efficiently by each sex, given men's greater size, strength, and speed and women's bearing and nursing children.
The division of labor structures psychological sex differences and similarities (Wood & Eagly, 2010, 2012). By observing the activities of women and men in their society, people form gender role beliefs or sex-typed expectations. For example, given that women perform more childcare than men in most industrialized societies, women are believed to be especially nurturant and caring. Given that men are more likely than women to hold higher status jobs in industrialized societies, men are believed to be especially dominant and assertive. Gender roles then influence behavior through social and biological processes. In social interaction, people respond more favorably to others who conform to gender role expectations (Wood & Karten, 1986). Women and men also might incorporate gender roles into their own personal identities (Witt & Wood, 2010; Wood, Christensen, Hebl, & Rothgerber, 1997). Additionally, hormonal processes support role performance (e.g., testosterone increases in women and men before athletic competitions; see review in Wood & Eagly, 2012).
Through the research below, we have shown how social roles account for sex differences in group interaction (Shackelford, Wood, & Worchel, 1996; Wood & Karten, 1986), emotional experience (Grossman & Wood, 1993; Wood, Rhodes, & Whelan, 1989), and group performance (Wood, 1987) In recent research, we explain how women's roles influence menstrual cycles in society along with women's mate preferences (Wood, Kressel, Joshi, & Louie, Emotion Review, in press).
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Eagly, A. H., & Wood, W. (2013). The nature-nurture debates: 25 years of challenges in the psychology of gender. Perspectives on Psychological Science, 8, 340-357. request paper
Wood, W., & Eagly, A. H. (2102). Biosocial construction of sex differences and similarities in behavior. In M. P. Zanna & J. M. Olson (Eds.), Advances in Experimental Social Psychology. San Diego, CA: Academic Press. [request paper]
Eagly, A. H., & Wood, W. (2011). Feminism and the evolution of sex differences and similarities. Sex Roles, 64(9-10), 758-767. request paper
Richman, L. S., VanDellen, M., & Wood, W. (2011). How women cope: Being a numerical minority in a male-dominated profession. Journal of Social Issues, 67, 492-509. request paper
Wood, W., & Eagly, A. H. (2010). Gender. In S. T. Fiske, D. T. Gilbert, & G. Lindzey (Eds.), Handbook of social psychology ( Vol. 1, 5th ed., pp. 629-667). New York: Wiley [request paper]
Witt, M. G., & Wood, W. (2010). Self-regulation of gendered behavior in everyday life. Sex Roles, 62, 635-646. [request paper]
Wood, W., & Eagly, A. H. (2009). Gender identity. In M. Leary & R. Hoyle (Eds.), Handbook of individual differences in social behavior (pp. 109-128).New York: Guilford. [request paper]
Eagly, A. H., Wood, W., & Johannnesen-Schmidt, M. C. (2004). The social role theory of sex differences and similarities: Implications for partner preference. In A. H. Eagly, A. Beall, & R. J. Sternberg (Eds.), Psychology of gender (2nd ed, pp. 269-295). New York: Guilford. [request paper]
Eagly, A. H., Wood, W., & Diekman, A. (2000). Social role theory of sex differences and similarities: A current appraisal. In T. Eckes & H. M. Trautner (Eds.), The developmental social psychology of gender (pp. 123-174). [request paper]
Boldry, J., Wood, W., & Kashy, D. (2001). Sex stereotypes and the evaluation of men and women in military training. Journal of Social Issues, 57, 689-706. Mahwah, NJ: Erlbaum. [request paper]
Wood, W., & Eagly, A. H. (2007). An evolutionary biosocial theory of human mating. In S. Gangestad & J. A. Simpson (Eds.), The evolution of mind: Fundamental questions and controversies (383-390). New York: Guilford. [request paper]
Eagly, A. H., & Wood, W. (2005). Universal sex differences across patriarchal cultures ≠ evolved psychological dispositions. Behavioral and Brain Sciences, 28, 281-283.
Wood, W., & Eagly, A. H. (2002). A cross-cultural analysis of the behavior of women and men: Implications for the origin of sex differences.Psychological Bulletin, 128, 699-727. [request paper]
Wood, W., & Eagly, A. H. (2000). A call to recognize the breadth of evolutionary perspectives: Sociocultural theories and evolutionary psychology. Psychological Inquiry, 11, 52-55. [request paper]
Eagly, A. H., & Wood, W. (1999). The origins of human sex differences: Evolved dispositions versus social roles. American Psychologist, 54, 408-423. [request paper]
Wood, W., Christensen, P. N., Hebl, M. R., & Rothgerber, H. (1997). Sex-typed norms, affect, and the self. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 73, 523-535. [request paper]
Shackelford, S., Wood, W., & Worchel, S. (1996). Behavioral styles and the influence of women in mixed-sex groups. Social Psychology Quarterly, 59, 284-293. [request paper]
Grossman, M., & Wood, W. (1993). Sex differences in emotional intensity: A social role explanation. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 65, 1010-1022. [request paper]
Wood, W., Rhodes, N., & Whelan, M. (1989). Sex differences in positive well-being: A consideration of emotional style and marital status.Psychological Bulletin, 106, 249-264. [request paper]