Gender differences in empathy: the role of the right hemisphere

Brain Cogn. 2008 Jul;67(2):162-7. doi: 10.1016/j.bandc.2008.01.002. Epub 2008 Mar 4.


The relationship between activation of the right cerebral hemisphere (RH) and empathy was investigated. Twenty-two men and 73 women participated by completing a chimeric face task and empathy questionnaire. For the face task, participants were asked to pick which of the two chimeric faces looked happier. Both men and women were significantly more likely to say the chimera with the smile to their left was happier, suggesting activation of the RH. As expected, men scored significantly lower than women on the empathy questionnaire, p=.003. A correlation was found between RH activation on the face task and empathy for women only, p=.037, suggesting a possible neural basis for gender differences in empathy.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Cerebral Cortex / physiology*
  • Dominance, Cerebral / physiology*
  • Emotions / physiology*
  • Empathy*
  • Facial Expression*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Individuality
  • Judgment
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Neuropsychological Tests
  • Pattern Recognition, Visual / physiology*
  • Personality Inventory
  • Sex Factors