New research on apologies from Canadian psychologists finds that men have a “higher threshold” for bad behavior, meaning they just don’t see “wrong” the same way women do, according to a study online in the journal Psychological Science.
Psychologists at the University of Waterloo in Ontario conducted two studies of 186 people, divided by gender. They found that men were less likely to be offended than women and were less likely to think they committed wrongdoing.
“The gender differences just sort of leapt out at us,” says co-author Michael Ross, a psychology professor. “It was too big to ignore. It was just very clearly there.”
In the first study, 33 men and 33 women completed online diaries for 12 days, describing instances in which they apologized to someone or did something that might have warranted an apology. That study found women more readily offered up a mea culpa. But the study also found that contrary to the stereotype, men didn’t avoid apologizing or refuse to admit they were in the wrong. They were just as likely to apologize if they believed they were actually in the wrong.
Another study of 120 participants asked them to rate specific offenses, how much that action deserved an apology and how likely they were to say they were sorry for it.
“Men rated the offenses as less severe than women did,” the study found.
“Part of the reason women apologize more is they have a lower threshold for what is offensive behavior,” says Karina Schumann, lead author of the study to appear in print in November.
“It’s not that men are always being insensitive or that women are always seeing offenses that aren’t.”
Schumann adds, “It’s a different standard between men and women on how offensive behavior is, and sometimes results in men not apologizing for something that the female thinks they should.”