Look Into My Eyes: Women Better At Reading Emotions
Women are better than men at looking into a person’s eyes and understanding what they’re feeling.
Over 300,000 participants were presented with 36 pictures of the eye region of a human face and were asked to pick one of four answer choices describing the emotion they were seeing.
In most countries (36 out of 57), women were more successful at identifying emotions, reflecting higher levels of empathy.
Until now, studies suggesting that women were more empathetic were based on a small number of participants and confined mainly to Western countries.
The current study, which was led by researchers at the University of Haifa and Bar Ilan University, used a large sample of 305,736 participants aged 16-70.
The country with the largest gap between women and men was Pakistan, followed by Nigeria, Greece, and Poland. Israel ranked 41 out of the 57 countries, with a similar gap to those found in Denmark, China. Sweden, and Brazil.
Participants from Western countries were found to have a smaller gap between men and women, while countries in Eastern Asia found that women were largely more empathetic. The mechanism that causes these cross-cultural differences remains unclear.
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The empathic abilities of both women and men were found to significantly increase from the ages of 16 to 20. At a later age, a decline is seen in both sexes, though it is very small.
“The findings of our study show that women have a sharper understanding of others,” said Prof. Ahmad Abu-Akel of the University of Haifa, one of the authors of the study.
“They are better at identifying other people’s thoughts and they also have a stronger social sense. Until now, it could have been argued that this is a cultural characteristic resulting from specific patterns of socialization in the Western countries.
“The current study allows us to determine that while the cultural context is a factor, significant differences between women and men are found in all human societies.”
The study was published in the prestigious journal PNAS.