Are angry women more like men?

Dec 04, 2009

"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 . 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.

"The present research shows that the association between anger and men and happiness and women is so strong that it can influence the decisions about the gender of another person when that person is viewed briefly," said Ursula Hess, PhD, from the Department of Psychology, University of Quebec at Montreal.

According to the report, the findings from this study as well as others lead to the idea that "the face is a complex social signaling system in which signals for emotion, behavioral intentions and sex all overlap."

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.

"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."

This research is part of a larger set of studies showing that men's faces are perceived as angrier and women's faces as happier. Hess' team is also investigating other facial features that affect the way people perceive emotion, including the effect of signs of aging such as wrinkles and furrows on the perception of emotions in the faces of the elderly.

Source: Association for Research in Vision and Ophthalmology (news : web)

Explore further: Exposure therapy appears helpful in treating patients with prolonged grief

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Study: Men good at anger, women with joy

Jun 13, 2006

A Massachusetts Institute of Technology study shows men are good at noticing angry faces, with women good at noticing surprised, sad or joyful expressions.

Prejudice or perception?

Jun 09, 2008

Expecting to be treated with prejudice may be part of a self-fulfilling prophecy, according to new research led by a University of Toronto psychologist.

Women easier to read after all

Feb 11, 2009

(PhysOrg.com) -- A study by a University of Glasgow psychologist, examining whether personality is related to facial appearance, has found that women’s faces are easier to read than men.

Recommended for you

User comments : 4

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

Slotin
1 / 5 (1) Dec 05, 2009
Women are still behaving differently, while being angry. For example, they're often biting quite spontaneously like small animals - while men are attacking by hands.
El_Nose
5 / 5 (1) Dec 05, 2009
when an emotion is expressed the face contorts changing the features that a person uses to identify gender on facial features alone. While most people in general se the same cues to determine gender... ratio of forehead to face, size of eyes, checkbone structure, and size of lips, and and raio of facail width to facial height... people place with intense emotion garble these features and the individual has to rewieght them. Anger in perticular changes more features than say smiling
otto1923
not rated yet Dec 05, 2009
You're right, angry women are more uglier than smiling women.
Truth
not rated yet Dec 06, 2009
I would imagine that part of the reason why men developed more "angry and threatening" faces is that when a hunter confronted a vicious animal or a warrior was in the midst of battle, a kind and gentle expression would elicit less fear in his opponent than a scowling, terrifying face. It's a matter of survival of the fittest. Women, on the other hand, initially being the caretakers of the home and children, didn't need such frightful expressions on a daily basis. Therefore, we should be thankful for what we now call "manly" tough faces. It's what evolution gave men to survive in the jungle.