Rockville, MD "Why is it that men can be bastards and women must wear pearls and smile?" wrote author Lynn Hecht Schafran. The answer, according to an article in the Journal of Vision, may lie in our interpretation of facial expressions.
In two studies, researchers asked subjects to identify the sex of a series of faces. In the first study, androgynous faces with lowered eyebrows and tight lips (angry expressions) were more likely to be identified as male, and faces with smiles and raised eyebrows (expressions of happiness and fear) were often labeled feminine.
The second study used male and female faces wearing expressions of happiness, anger, sadness, fear or a neutral expression. Overall, subjects were able to identify male faces more quickly than female faces, and female faces that expressed anger took the longest to identify.
We are wired up to have different expectations for male and female faces and the emotions they express.
Hess said that the same cues that make a face appear male a high forehead, a square jaw and thicker eyebrows have been linked to perceptions of dominance. Likewise, features that make a face appear female a rounded, baby face with large eyes have been linked to perceptions of the individual being approachable and warm.
Male anger is seen as more intense than female anger while female happiness is seen as more intense than male happiness.
"This difference in how the emotions and social traits of the two sexes are perceived could have significant implications for social interactions in a number of settings. Our research demonstrates that equivalent levels of anger are perceived as more intense when shown by men rather than women, and happiness as more intense when shown by women rather than men. It also suggests that it is less likely for men to be perceived as warm and caring and for women to be perceived as dominant."
So angry girls and happy guys aren't taken seriously.
So what are the implications of these results for our daily lives? Should guys try harder to seem happy or not even bother to make the effort? Should women hold up cue cards saying things like "I am really angry now"? Or just start throwing dishes?
|Share |||Randall Parker, 2009 December 07 07:13 AM Brain Sex Differences|