Women beat men at reading emotions

It’s official! Men are worse at reading emotions than women, according to a new study.

Men take longer to assess facial expressions, found researchers from Edinburgh University.

The study showed a group of men and women photographs of faces, then asked various questions about them. Their brains were scanned as they came up with their answers, and their responses were timed.

When asked whether those in the photographs were male or female, or how intelligent they seemed, there was little difference in how the men and women performed. But when asked to decide how approachable the people in the photographs were, the men took longer, the Daily Mail reported.

And, despite eventually coming to the same conclusion as the women, they seemed to find it more difficult to formulate their opinions. Brain scans showed a rush of blood to the region known to be involved in making judgements about emotions.

This, the researchers said, suggests that the male brain has to work harder to make social decisions, to compensate for the fact that it naturally finds these sort of judgements trickier.

Professor Stephen Lawrie, who led the study, said it was designed to give the men enough time to come up with the correct answers. But, faced with snap decisions in real life, they might start misjudging others’ thoughts.

The results, published in the journal PLoS ONE, could lead to new treatments for people with autism, as they often have difficulty in reading faces and in distinguishing between different emotions.

When the researchers carried out the same study with men who had a condition related to autism, the rush of blood to the emotional judgement area of the brain was even greater.

“Our findings suggest that men have developed strategies to cope with their lesser natural empathy by over-activating the parts of the brain that understand social cues,” Lawrie said.

“As this pattern is also seen in people with autism-linked conditions, it suggests we could devise new tools to help patients learn social rules and enhance their skills for engaging with other people,” Lawrie added.

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