Research Report

Cognitive Processing

, Volume 6, Issue 2, pp 136-141

Sex differences in the perception of affective facial expressions: Do men really lack emotional sensitivity?

  • Barbara MontagneAffiliated withHelmholtz Instituut Psychological Laboratory, Utrecht University Email author 
  • , Roy P. C. KesselsAffiliated withHelmholtz Instituut, Utrecht University and Department of Neurology, University Medical Center Utrecht
  • , Elisa FrigerioAffiliated withSchool of Psychology, Faculty of Medicine, University of Milan
  • , Edward H. F. de HaanAffiliated withHelmholtz Instituut, Utrecht University and Department of Neurology, University Medical Center Utrecht
  • , David I. PerrettAffiliated withSchool of Psychology, University of St.Andrews

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Abstract

There is evidence that men and women display differences in both cognitive and affective functions. Recent studies have examined the processing of emotions in males and females. However, the findings are inconclusive, possibly the result of methodological differences. The aim of this study was to investigate the perception of emotional facial expressions in men and women. Video clips of neutral faces, gradually morphing into full-blown expressions were used. By doing this, we were able to examine both the accuracy and the sensitivity in labelling emotional facial expressions. Furthermore, all participants completed an anxiety and a depression rating scale. Research participants were 40 female students and 28 male students. Results revealed that men were less accurate, as well as less sensitive in labelling facial expressions. Thus, men show an overall worse performance compared to women on a task measuring the processing of emotional faces. This result is discussed in relation to recent findings.

Keywords

Affective processing Emotion perception Facial expressions Gender differences