Study shows men better at reading emotions in other men than in women

April 15, 2013 by Bob Yirka report
(a) Statistical parametric map and (b) parameter estimates illustrating differential activation pattern of the right amygdala for male and female eyes (regardless of condition: emotion vs. gender recognition). (c) Scatter plots depicting the relationships between amygdala response and emotion recognition accuracy for both types of stimuli. Credit: doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0060278.g003

(Medical Xpress)—Researchers at LWL-University Hospital in Bochum, Germany have found that male volunteers looking at photographs of human eyes were better at guessing the "mood" of the person in the picture, if the person in them was also male. This, the researchers suggest in their paper published in the journal PLUS ONE, indicates that men are better able to read the mood of fellow males than females.

Several studies over the past several years have found evidence to support the common notion that men have difficulty in reading the emotions of women. One such study conducted at Indiana University (home of the Kinsey Institute) found that men tend to misinterpret positive signals from women, quite often mistaking for . In this new effort, the researchers attempted to gather actual to gain more insight into what goes on in the minds of men as they attempt to decipher the moods of women.

They enlisted the assistance of 22 male volunteers—all single and all between the ages of 21 and 52. Each was asked to look at photographs showing just the eyes of a person, while undergoing an . The gender of the people in the photographs was split 50/50 and each displayed an emotion that was considered to be positive, neutral, or negative. As the volunteers viewed the pictures they were asked to choose between two words given to them that best described the mood of the person they were looking at. No other information was given.

In analyzing the results, the researchers found that the volunteers were better at sensing the mood of the person in the picture if that person was male. They also found that when looking at a pair of male eyes, the amygdala—a portion of the brain that has been found to be involved in emotion—was more active than when looking at the women's eyes. Other tied to emotion didn't light up as much when looking at women's eyes as they did for males either.

Because scientists believe that emotional reading happens mostly through the eyes, the researchers suggest that their results show that men are better at reading the emotional state of their fellow men, than they are at doing the same with women.

Explore further: Men have a stronger reaction to seeing other men's emotions compared with women's

More information: Schiffer B, Pawliczek C, Müller BW, Gizewski ER, Walter H (2013) Why Don't Men Understand Women? Altered Neural Networks for Reading the Language of Male and Female Eyes. PLoS ONE 8(4): e60278. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0060278

Abstract
Men are traditionally thought to have more problems in understanding women compared to understanding other men, though evidence supporting this assumption remains sparse. Recently, it has been shown, however, that meńs problems in recognizing women's emotions could be linked to difficulties in extracting the relevant information from the eye region, which remain one of the richest sources of social information for the attribution of mental states to others. To determine possible differences in the neural correlates underlying emotion recognition from female, as compared to male eyes, a modified version of the Reading the Mind in the Eyes Test in combination with functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) was applied to a sample of 22 participants. We found that men actually had twice as many problems in recognizing emotions from female as compared to male eyes, and that these problems were particularly associated with a lack of activation in limbic regions of the brain (including the hippocampus and the rostral anterior cingulate cortex). Moreover, men revealed heightened activation of the right amygdala to male stimuli regardless of condition (sex vs. emotion recognition). Thus, our findings highlight the function of the amygdala in the affective component of theory of mind (ToM) and in empathy, and provide further evidence that men are substantially less able to infer mental states expressed by women, which may be accompanied by sex-specific differences in amygdala activity.

Related Stories

Men have a stronger reaction to seeing other men's emotions compared with women's

December 7, 2011
(Medical Xpress) -- Men have a stronger response to seeing other men show emotion than when women show emotion, according to new research from Queen Mary, University of London.

Study shows people view women as a collection of body parts

July 25, 2012
(Medical Xpress) -- A small group of researchers has found that true to stereotype, people really do tend to look at women as a collection of body parts, rather than as a whole person. What’s perhaps most surprising ...

Study shows attractiveness of people not dependent on facial expression

March 12, 2013
(Medical Xpress)—Researchers from the U.K.'s University of Portsmouth have conducted a study with the aim of attempting to discern if the attractiveness of a person's face is impacted by facial expression. In their paper ...

Why do older adults display more positive emotion? It might have to do with what they're looking at

August 8, 2012
Research has shown that older adults display more positive emotions and are quicker to regulate out of negative emotional states than younger adults. Given the declines in cognitive functioning and physical health that tend ...

Recommended for you

Researchers crack the smile, describing three types by muscle movement

July 27, 2017
The smile may be the most common and flexible expression, used to reveal some emotions, cover others and manage social interactions that have kept communities secure and organized for millennia.

Even babies can tell who's the boss, UW research says

July 27, 2017
The charismatic colleague, the natural leader, the life of the party - all are personal qualities that adults recognize instinctively. These socially dominant types, according to repeated studies, also tend to accomplish ...

Ketamine for depression encouraging, but questions remain around long-term use

July 27, 2017
A world-first systematic review into the safety of ketamine as a treatment for depression, published in the prestigious Lancet Psychiatry, shows the risks of long-term ketamine treatment remain unclear.

DREAMers at greater risk for mental health distress

July 27, 2017
Immigrants who came to the United States illegally as small children and who meet the requirements of the Development Relief and Education for Alien Minors Act, more commonly known as DREAMers, are at risk for mental health ...

Negativity, be gone—new online tool can retrain your brain

July 27, 2017
Anxiety and depression can have devastating effects on people's lives. In some cases, the mental disorders lead to isolation, poverty and poor physical health, things that often cascade to future generations.

Research aims to shape more precise treatments for depression in women

July 27, 2017
Among women in the United States, depression is at epidemic levels: Approximately 12 million women in the U.S. experience clinical depression each year, and more than 12 percent of women can expect to experience depression ...

1 comment

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

Moebius
4 / 5 (1) Apr 15, 2013
LOL, never would have guessed.

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.