The Division of Personality is Limited by the Division of Labor

Here is the abstract to Why can’t a
man be more like a woman? Sex differences in Big Five personality traits
across 55 cultures

Previous research suggested that sex differences in personality traits
are larger in prosperous, healthy, and egalitarian cultures in which
women have more opportunities equal with those of men. In this article,
the authors report cross-cultural findings in which this unintuitive
result was replicated across samples from 55 nations (N = 17,637). On
responses to the Big Five Inventory, women reported higher levels of
neuroticism, extraversion, agreeableness, and conscientiousness than did
men across most nations. These findings converge with previous studies in
which different Big Five measures and more limited samples of nations
were used. Overall, higher levels of human development–including long
and healthy life, equal access to knowledge and education, and economic
wealth–were the main nation-level predictors of larger sex differences
in personality. Changes in men’s personality traits appeared to be the
primary cause of sex difference variation across cultures. It is proposed
that heightened levels of sexual dimorphism result from personality
traits of men and women being less constrained and more able to naturally
diverge in developed nations. In less fortunate social and economic
conditions, innate personality differences between men and women may be

Unlike the authors, I don’t find it unintuitive that personality differences between men and women increase in developed economies.  All personality differences increase in developed economies.  If Robin Williams Chris Rock (see comments) were a Bangladeshi rice farmer he might still be funny but he’d also have to be a hard-working, diligent rice farmer and that would push his personality closer to the mean of all rice farmers.  The division of labor both opens up the possibility of becoming who you truly are and it magnifies and extends who you can be.

Hat tip to Robin Hanson.


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