Motivation and Emotion

, Volume 42, Issue 1, pp 149–160 | Cite as

Sex differences in emotion recognition ability: The mediating role of trait emotional awareness

  • Ron Wright
  • Robert Riedel
  • Lee Sechrest
  • Richard D. Lane
  • Ryan SmithEmail author
Original Paper


Although previous research on emotion recognition ability (ERA) has found consistent evidence for a female advantage, the explanation for this sex difference remains incompletely understood. This study compared males and females on four emotion recognition tasks, using a community sample of 379 adults drawn from two regions of the United States (stratified with respect to age, sex, and socioeconomic status). Participants also completed the Levels of Emotional Awareness Scale (LEAS), a measure of trait emotional awareness (EA) thought to primarily reflect individual differences in emotion concept learning. We observed that individual differences in LEAS scores mediated the relationship between sex and ERA; in addition, we observed that ERA distributions were noticeably non-normal, and that—similar to findings with other cognitive performance measures—males had more variability in ERA than females. These results further characterize sex differences in ERA and suggest that these differences may be explained by differences in EA—a trait variable linked primarily to early learning.


Emotion recognition Emotional awareness Sex differences Perception Non-normal statistical distributions 



Supported by BRSG 2S07 RR05675-23 awarded by the Biomedical Research Support Grant Program, Division of Research Resources, National Institutes of Health to R.D.L.

Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interest

None of the authors have any conflicts of interest to disclose.

Ethical approval

All procedures performed in studies involving human participants were in accordance with the ethical standards of the institutional and/or national research committee and with the 1964 Helsinki declaration and its later amendments or comparable ethical standards.

Informed consent

Informed consent was obtained from all individual participants included in the study.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  • Ron Wright
    • 1
  • Robert Riedel
    • 2
  • Lee Sechrest
    • 3
  • Richard D. Lane
    • 1
    • 3
  • Ryan Smith
    • 1
    Email author
  1. 1.Department of PsychiatryUniversity of ArizonaTucsonUSA
  2. 2.Department of PsychologyLynn UniversityBoca RatonUSA
  3. 3.Department of PsychologyUniversity of ArizonaTucsonUSA

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