Men often treat their friends better than women do

ResearchBlogging.orgWho's more "sociable," men or women? Common sense says it's women, right? And many research studies back this impression up: Women are more interpersonal, more connected, more interdependent than men. Women are more likely to share intimate information with each other than men. But is that really the whole story?

There is also research suggesting that men have larger social networks than women do, and that male-male friendships last longer than female-female ones.

A team led by Joyce Benenson conducted a set of three studies that may shed some light on the question. In their first study, they identified 30 male and 30 female undergraduates at a small, Northeastern U.S. college. Half of each group was specifically recruited because they said they had some kind of conflict with their roommate. The other half said they were planning on living with their roommate for the rest of the school year. Each student was asked to rate their satisfaction with their roommate on a scale of 1 to 5. A score of 4 or 5 was defined by the researchers as "satisfied." So were there gender differences? Here are the results:


The male students were significantly more likely to be satisfied with their roommates than female students, whether or not they had a conflict with their roommate. The students also rated their roommates on social interaction, interests, values, and hygiene, and male students gave significantly higher ratings for their roommates than females for every category except hygiene.

In a second study, the researchers surveyed three separate institutions to see how frequently male and female students requested to change roommates. Here are those results:


Whether the students were at a small, medium, or large college or university, females asked for significantly more roommate changes than males.

Finally, they did an experiment. 111 French Canadian postgraduate students read a hypothetical story about two friends who were the same sex, "Jeanne" and "Danielle." Several examples of Danielle's reliability as a friend were given. Then the students rated Danielle's reliability as a friend on a scale of 0 to 100 percent. Then there was a twist to the story: Jeanne had asked Danielle to turn in a paper for her, and another friend had informed Jeanne that Danielle had failed to do it. After hearing this twist, the students rated Danielle's reliability once again. Here are the results:


After the twist in the story, both men and women rated Danielle's reliability lower, but women's ratings decreased significantly more than men's ratings.

The researchers say these three studies show that men are more tolerant of their friends' failings than women. Does this mean that men are more "sociable"? That's less certain. After all, it could be that women value the friendships more, and so are harsher judges when they perceive a betrayal. Regardless of your interpretation of these results, however, it seems that the stereotype of "men harsh, women friendly" is not always valid. In many cases, it can be said that women are less tolerant than men.

Benenson, J., Markovits, H., Fitzgerald, C., Geoffroy, D., Flemming, J., Kahlenberg, S., & Wrangham, R. (2009). Males' Greater Tolerance of Same-Sex Peers Psychological Science, 20 (2), 184-190 DOI: 10.1111/j.1467-9280.2009.02269.x

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What's the evidence that men and women are equally likely to room with a friend vs. get assigned a roommate?

the conclusions fit w/my intuitions, but the data looks more like men are just less sensitive to social-relational information- i.e. they don't care as much, so they rate satisfaction higher, and when there's a violation (e.g. forgot to turn in paper), they don't notice as much. You can call that tolerance if you want, but it seems a little more complex.

It's a "well-known fact" (i.e. totally anecdotal) that men let their friends get away with a lot of behaviour that would have women talking trash and purging their Facebook friends list. My theory is that men are simply raised to pretend our friendships are not heavily invested in shared values and emotional intimacy... so a let-down seems like less of a big deal, or we tell ourselves it is. Of course the downside of this is when your friend shows up with three prostitutes in his car, and you find yourself making excuses for it, because "oh, yeah, he kind of gets crazy when he's drunk, but he's an okay guy, really"...

Sorry, of course I meant "my HYPOTHESIS is..."


I think the title and/or conclusion should be "Men are more tolerant than women" rather than "Men often treat their friends better than women do". I didn't read anything here than evaluated "quality of treatment", so either I missed something or you are reading something into to studies, i.e. more tolerant means treats better.

I notice that the authors of the paper talk about "same sex peers", which is much less of a loaded term than "friends". So the authors are saying that men are more tolerant of their *peers'* actions than women are (i.e., women are more judgmental of perceived social transgressions).

This has absolutely nothing to do with "friendship" or extent of social networks. Roommates are typically randomly assigned, at least in freshman year. Being tolerant of your roommate doesn't mean s/he is a friend; it also means that your range of acquaintances includes one more person. (In fact, the female might be considered to have a greater range of social network given that she has *two* people who are acquaintances, the first roommate and the second...)

I'd be interested to see some research about length of friendship, number of friends, how men and women define "friendship", etc. Being easy-going about your acquaintances is one thing; having "better" or "stronger" or "longer" friendships (well, at least the last one is objectively definable) is another.

After years working in university residence halls, at summer camps, in the military, and at a commune, I have quite a bit of experience with roommate arrangements, both my own and other people's. One thing that I have learned is that men have an easier time being roommates than women do.

I don't think this generalizes to either men or women treating their friends better.

I believe these results except when heterosexual males find out you are gay then they are much more likely to abandon you than women.

Since when does roommate equal friend?

So what? I would even go farther and say that the only thing that study shows is that males consistently used the more positive categories in the questionairs. Be aware that the difference between conflicted and satisfied room mates is approx. the same! Same is true for the last experiment.

i am also wondering why boys are like that.i can feel that my boyfriend enjoys being with his peers rather that spending time with me.

By mary grace domingo (not verified) on 18 Nov 2009 #permalink

Based on my personal experience with my male and female friends, i would say that males just dont care about most of the common "roommate issues". The same factors affect females more than males.
But I dont think this says anything about 'better treatment of friends'..

I'd be curious to see a study showing proportion of men living without a roommate compared to women living alone over time. It seems like if there were significant differences the ratio of men with roommates vs. living alone and the same figures for women it would be pretty damaging to the conclusions of this study.

I own a small home with an extra bedroom and rent it out, usually to people on craigslist (i.e. randoms). My girlfriend would NEVER do the same. I agree with many above that roommate does not equal friendship. My experience in college certainly helps support that notion, though we got along well enough sharing a room.

I don't think much insight about friendships can be had from undergraduate roommate arrangements. Sorry! For a 20 yo, the road of life has barely started; few trials have emerged eg: marriage, kids, jobs, aging parents etc. 'Social networks' at 20? - um, verrry limited.

25 years in nursing (I'm male)...

Well, this sure fits my mental model of social gender differences

IMHO most males grow out of the worst of their testosterone-fuelled-high-school-stupid stage...but I'm not sure that many women ever get past (or over) that "9th grade bathroom-social-ranking" mentality.

That coffee room chatter can get viciously judgmental over things that no guy (IMHO) would ever give a rats butt about

I mean, why can't they just punch each other in the nose? The bleeding stops long before the HR investigations end (and the HR bit usually makes things worse)

This depends on your definition of "better". I know plenty of guys who have serious issues with the dudes they hang out with, yet still hang out with them (hard drug users, thieves, liars or just assholes). Then they complain and rant about it to their other friends when that person isn't around. By contrast, most of my female friends, if they have sustained problems with someone, just don't associate with them anymore. They'll also rant, but they might do something about it too. Sounds to me like one party is just being more insincere in this study.

"Why Can't a Woman Be More Like a Man?"
music by Frederick Loewe; lyrics by Alan Jay Lerner

Why can't a woman be more like a man?
Men are so honest, so thoroughly square;
Eternally noble, historically fair.
Who, when you win, will always give your back a pat.
Why can't a woman be like that?

Why does every one do what the others do?
Can't a woman learn to use her head?
Why do they do everything their mothers do?
Why don't they grow up, well, like their father instead?

Why can't a woman take after a man?
Men are so pleasant, so easy to please.
Whenever you're with them, you're always at ease.

Would you be slighted if I didn't speak for hours?

Of course not.

Would you be livid if I had a drink or two?


Would you be wounded if I never sent you flowers?


Well, why can't a woman be like you?

One man in a million may shout a bit.
Now and then, there's one with slight defects.
One perhaps whose truthfulness you doubt a bit,
But by and large we are a marvelous sex!

Why can't a woman take after a man?
'Cause men are so friendly, good-natured and kind.
A better companion you never will find.

If I were hours late for dinner would you bellow?

Of course not.

If I forgot your silly birthday, would you fuss?


Would you complain if I took out another fellow?


Why can't a woman be like us?


Why can't a woman be more like a man?
Men are so decent, such regular chaps;
Ready to help you through any mishaps;
Ready to buck you up whenever you're glum.
Why can't a woman be a chum?

Why is thinking something women never do?
And why is logic never even tried?
Straightening up their hair is all they ever do.
Why don't they straighten up the mess that's inside?

Why can't a woman behave like a man?
If I was a woman who'd been to a ball,
Been hailed as a princess by one and by all;
Would I start weeping like a bathtub overflowing,
Or carry on as if my home were in a tree?
Would I run off and never tell me where I'm going?
Why can't a woman be like me?

By Walter Sobchak (not verified) on 18 Nov 2009 #permalink

were is the freakin standard deviation. come on with only a replicate of 30 you cannot just put bars there without standard dev!

By erforderln (not verified) on 19 Nov 2009 #permalink

This is interesting research, though I agree with the commenter who said that the title was inaccurate. But maybe I'm just being an overly critical woman ;)

Anyway, having had many male and female housemates over the years, I would say that I've had more problems with females, but also been closer to females. Most men that I've lived with, especially straight men, seem to be more easygoing about household matters. However, they also just tend to be more oblivious in general. I don't mean that as an insult, I just mean that they don't seem to think about the other people in the household as much as women do, for better or for worse. They may not be stressing out over their roommates actions, but they also may not be as aware and considerate of their roommates in general.

This is a good reminder for me, as I find that I often get extremely frustrated with men I am dating because of their seeming lack of consideration or reliability. Seeing that final graph, it's helpful to realize that women on the whole are less tolerant of transgressions and perceived unrealiability than men, even in same-gendered interactions. Maybe it will help me be a little more understanding of men, and of my own reactions. Thanks!

Yeah, the title bears next to no relation to the content of this post. We cannot really infer anything about which gender treats its friends better from these studies. We could just as easily conclude that women are more sensitive to a social contact's behavior, not that male behavior is any better. (This was touched upon in earlier comments). Maybe more importantly, the jump from "person-you-live-with" to "friend" might feel natural, but it really isn't. Plenty of people treat their friends and housemates/roommates differently, have different expectations for each one, etc.

With that third study, I think it would be interesting to see how the results would or would not differ with male names (e.g., "Patrick" and "Robert" in place of "Jeanne" and "Danielle") for the hypothetical. In this case, it wasn't what the researchers were looking for, of course, but I'd still be curious.

".. men let their friends get away with a lot of behaviour that would have women talking trash and purging their Facebook friends list."

Except you don't do that to a friend if you are a man. Or he's really not your friend. Either you talk to friend or keep quiet, but not behind his back, that's really bad social blunder.

"Friend" is a word which has inflated lately and I'd say that the friends the researchers are referring to, know more about you then you yourself and not the "friends" you get from Facebook by the hundreds. If I say hello to my neighbours a couple of times a day next 10 years, they still aren't my friends, they just happen to live near here.

I think your research is correct. For the simple reason that men tend not to let their feelings or emoitions guide their actions with other guys. So even if something hurtful is cast our way, it's not a big deal. But if a guy friend does something untrustworthly that's another story.

ABM said: 'Of course the downside of this is when your friend shows up with three prostitutes in his car, and you find yourself making excuses for it, because "oh, yeah, he kind of gets crazy when he's drunk, but he's an okay guy, really"...'

Sure, but that's because we really DO think he is an okay guy, even an awesome guy!! I don't think it's "pretending" to not be let down - it's actually a feeling of not being let down.

But I think you're right that this may come from some underlying sense of not feeling "invested" in shared values etc. It seems to follow that if you view your friends as a contiguous extension of yourself and your own values that you'd be less accepting of any behavior that you feel doesn't represent yourself.

I don't view my friends as necessarily sharing my values - they can just be people who interest me or whom I enjoy hanging out with. If they have BO or fail to turn in my term papers, or show up with 3 prostitutes, who cares? Whether one would call this a "better" friendship is subject to debate. It's arguably "shallower" and yet it is "more reliable" at the same time.

It's simple, and it's classic. Men are oriented toward the real world more than women. Men know people are different and they let those differences go without complaint. Women, on the other hand, are bitches. Everybody knows this, it's just politically incorrect to say so. Even the women know this but don't worry, they'll bitch about it anyway.

By Kevin Reynolds (not verified) on 20 Nov 2009 #permalink

Interesting. Reminded me of the time when my wife told me she'd never work for a female boss again. It was the bitchy, backstabbing stuff that did it for her.

Not that that proves anything!

Bros before hoes...

By ProfessorChaos (not verified) on 20 Nov 2009 #permalink

well well well... i'm a female and i certainly have seen enough of relationships to say that... i couldn't agree with the article more! maybe it's because we expect too much and we care too much! we really take the whole thing too seriously! and we make a hell out of a simple relationship for both sides!

Pretty much everybody who has commented has said everything that I was thinking - women do take things more seriously than men, and can be less forgiving.

As a woman who has an equal number of male and female friends, I can say that I view these friendships differently. I definitely get more upset with female friends when conflict (although rarely) occurs, so much so that it can cause a great deal of anxiety and distress. However, I don't expect as much from my male friends, and therefore don't have the same conflicts. I can still have intimate conversations with both, I guess I just get more attached to my female friends because more commonly, that is how they go.

I get a lot out of these female friendships, when you get along very well with someone, it can be very fulfilling. That is probably why there are such great consequences too in these relationships, why we are more vulnerable to getting hurt.

By cheeseomlette (not verified) on 23 Nov 2009 #permalink

I wonder how this research ties in with the research showing that women are more unhappy on average in their marriages than men are.

I wonder how tolerance compares for opposite sex peers. Women being hard on female peers is likely a reflection of the disparity in the social expectations of men and women. Both men and women are probably more likely to judge female friends more harshly than their male friends, especially given the stereotype of males as being oblivious - any negative behaviour on their part is excusable. In contrast, the stereotype of women is that they're considerate and "other-oriented" and therefore any bad bheaviour on their part becomes impossible to excuse.

The title is really misleading. Being more tolerant doesn't mean treating better. Experiment only shows that women have higher standards (which is nothing new according to hygiene for example ;). If they keep higher expectations it's not a surprise they are less happy in their marriages.

I think the data is interesting and has value in the proper context. I would appreciate some error bars and/or a larger sample size.

Some good points were made in the comments already, apologies if I repeat any.

I would not consider college students as a random group representing humans on the whole. Both their age and attendance at college potentially sets this group apart. Unfortunately the methods used to reach their conclusions cannot be applied to a non-college non-roommate situation.

It is good science, but needs to be taken in the small context to which it applies, the title should specifically reflect what the study looked at.

By Matthew Mirabello (not verified) on 02 Dec 2009 #permalink

It is worth pointing out that the title of the actual paper was "Males' Greater Tolerance of Same-Sex Peers" as shown on the bottom of the blog entry.

So the title of the blog entry is a bit sloppy.

Mens will give more time to work, so they waste less time to think small details, women are very detail oriented and hence have more clashes

By Vijayendra Suman (not verified) on 10 Dec 2009 #permalink

I would like to relate an experience a woman I'm acquainted with had. She is in her mid 30's, no college education (not even sure if she finished high school), no kids, no long term relationships that I know of although she's still dating.

After 15 years of working in hospitality industries, mostly as a bartender, and with predominantly female co-workers, and a mix of male and female bosses, one of her regulars talked her into taking an entry-level position for a construction company, and he was able to insure she was hired. She's fit and reasonably attractive, and the job involves working outdoors, winter and summer, and being bussed to job sites with about 30 other crewmembers, working at mine sites.

We noticed she lost weight, became more toned, and complained a lot about the weather. But, one day she said "I can't believe how easy it is to work with men. I never want to work in a job staffed mostly with women again."

King Arthur has something to say about this:

"Men are by nature merely indifferent to one another; but women are by nature enemies."
- Arthur Schopenhauer

By Wonderwice (not verified) on 30 Dec 2009 #permalink