“Study: Men Struggle to Read Women’s Emotions,” reads a headline at science magazine Discover. Many women out there are probably thinking “duh,” but wait a moment while I add insult to injury: men are good at reading dogs’ emotions. They are more emotionally in tune with dogs than with women.
One could view this as vindication for men. They are innocent of some of the accusations frustrated women throw at them: it’s not that they aren’t paying attention or don’t care. It’s just that they are physiologically impaired.
Scientists say that men do indeed have a hard time understanding women. Recent results show that men have a significantly harder time recognizing women’s emotions than they do men’s and that men seem to use different parts of their brain when ascribing intentions and feelings to women versus men.
Well that’s upsetting. Men use different parts of their brains to think about women’s feelings? No wonder they exclude women from opportunities: women tax the male brain by forcing it to turn on parts that could otherwise keep napping. It’s easier to stay away from women — especially because there is no telling what they are feeling.
While men find women somewhat inscrutable, dogs are more of an open book. A new study shows that people can read dogs’ emotions from their facial expressions. I have no information about which parts of the brain are involved or whether men or women are better at it.
Participants in this study looked at pictures of a dog’s face. The pictures were of one dog, Mal. Researchers did things to make him happy, sad, etc., and took pictures of his expressions. Mal is a police dog, so to make him angry one of the researchers pretended to be a criminal.
Study participants were best at recognizing happiness on Mal’s face, with 88 percent getting it right — compared to men’s average 76% accuracy rate reading women’s emotions. Study subjects also looked at pictures of the dog looking sad, angry, surprised, scared and disgusted (only 13% accuracy on identifying that one).
Lead researcher Dr. Tina Bloom took these results to mean that people are more connected to nature than we think. We can communicate meaningfully with non-human animals.
Bloom also said that “there is no doubt that humans have the ability to recognize emotional states in other humans and accurately read other humans’ facial expressions.” She may want to read up on the latest literature about just how good certain humans are at accurately reading certain other humans’ facial expressions.
Those male humans who made such a lackluster showing at reading women’s expressions didn’t see the women’s whole faces, just their eyes. While in an fMRI machine, the men went through the “Reading the Mind in the Eyes Test.” (A version of this test is available here.) They had to look at a pair of eyes and identify either what emotion they expressed or whether they belonged to a woman or a man. The fMRI machine showed researchers which parts of the brain men used to answer these questions.
Discover reports that study participants “were about equally good at guessing the gender of male and female eyes, but the men did significantly worse at recognizing the emotions of the female eyes.” “Significantly worse” = “twice as many problems in recognizing emotions from female as compared to male eyes,” according to the abstract of the study on Plos One. Plus, it took men longer to come up with a guess about women’s emotions than about men’s. Men could identify other men’s emotions from their eyes faster and more accurately than women’s emotions.
Neither of these studies produced much information about women’s abilities to read others’ emotions, be they man or beast. Who knows, maybe women can’t read men’s emotions either.
I figured out long ago that men can’t read my mind. Now men’s ability to read their female partners’ faces is also in question. We are running out of means of communication here. There’s nothing left to do — we have to resort to talking to each other.
Photo credit: Brand X Pictures