Document Type



Anthropology (Pitzer)

Publication Date



empathy, sex differences, difference feminism, poverty, welfare, U.S. culture


Difference feminists have argued that women have special virtues. One such virtue would seem to be empathy, which has three main components: imaginative projection, awareness of the other's emotions, and concern. Empathy is closely related to identification. Psychological research and the author's own study of women's and men's talk about poverty and welfare use in the United States demonstrate women's greater empathic concern. However, some cross-cultural research shows greater sex differences in empathy in the United States than elsewhere. This combination of findings (women tend to demonstrate greater empathic concern, but this typical difference varies cross-culturally) requires a complex biocultural explanation, drawing on cognitive, psychoanalytic, and feminist theories. Explanation, and not just description, is a prerequisite for change.


Workshop on Feminists Doing Psychological Anthropology Year 2000 [May, 1999, Stockholm, SWEDEN]. Ethos is published by Wiley-Blackwell on behalf of the American Anthropological Association for its subsidiary, the Society for Psychological Anthropology. Publications of the American Anthropological Society are printed through Wiley-Blackwell. Though Wiley-Blackwell limits IR clearance to the author's manuscript, the American Anthropological Association states that the author reserves the right to post the article on their personal or institutional website accompanied by proper citation information.

Previously linked to as:,358.

Source: Publisher's pdf.

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© 2004 American Anthropological Association. Any inquiries regarding permission to reprint or use in any manner the following material should be directed to both the American Anthropological Association and Wiley-Blackwell.

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