The theory that “men are from Mars and women from Venus” is pretty much total crap, according to new research.

Psychologists in the US have found that the two sexes are far more similar than we have been led to believe. And they say the stereotype may be hampering both sexes in their personal and professional lives.

The best-selling 1993 self-help book Men Are From Mars, Women Are From Venus suggests that better communication between the sexes can be promoted by conceiving of them as coming from different planets, with different behaviour and value systems.

But researchers from the University of Wisconsin reviewed 46 studies conducted during the last 20 years looking at gender differences.

They say the idea that men and women are so psychologically distant has been vastly overestimated in the media, and that they are in fact more similar in personality, communication, mental skills and leadership than has been realised.

Writing in the journal American Psychologist, the researchers concluded that males and females, from childhood to adulthood, were more alike than different on most psychological variables.

The qualities examined included intelligence, verbal and non-verbal communication, social and psychological traits such as aggression or leadership, and elements of psychological wellbeing, such as self-esteem, and of “motor” ability, such as throwing distances.

Psychologist Janet Hyde said that gender differences rated either “zero” or had only a very small effect for most of the variables examined. Only motor behaviours, aspects of sexuality and heightened physical aggression showed a marked difference between the sexes.

Dr Hyde said that “over-inflated” claims seen in the media that men and women are different affected both sexes in work, parenting and relationships.

She said that studies of gender and leadership in the workplace showed that women who went against the “caring, nurturing” stereotype may pay for it dearly when being hired or assessed. Dr Hyde

said that popular books and magazines also suggested women and men cannot get along because they communicate too differently.

She said: “The claims can hurt women’s opportunities in the workplace, dissuade couples from trying to resolve problems, and cause unnecessary obstacles that hurt adolescents’ self-esteem.”

More here.