Why are women better at detecting non-verbal emotion?


Previous meta-analyses support a female advantage in decoding non-verbal emotion (Hall, 1978, 1984), yet the mechanisms underlying this advantage are not understood. The present study examined whether the female advantage is related to greater female attention to the eyes. Eye-tracking techniques were used to measure attention to the eyes in 19 males and 20 females during a facial expression recognition task. Women were faster and more accurate in their expression recognition compared with men, and women looked more at the eyes than men. Positive relationships were observed between dwell time and number of fixations to the eyes and both accuracy of facial expression recognition and speed of facial expression recognition. These results support the hypothesis that the female advantage in facial expression recognition is related to greater female attention to the eyes.

Source: “Sex differences in scanning faces: Does attention to the eyes explain female superiority in facial expression recognition?” from Cognition & Emotion, Volume 24, Issue 4 June 2010 , pages 629 – 637

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