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Saturday, 05 December 2009 19:18

Study finds angry men and happy women easy to identify

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A study by American, Canadian, and Austrian researchers has shown that it is easier to identify emotions of happiness and fear in the faces of women and easier to identify emotions of anger in men’s faces. However, it is much more difficult to identify an angry women.


The article “Face gender and emotion expression: Are angry women more like men?” appears in the Journal of Vision. (9(12):19, 1-8, http://journalofvision.org/9/12/19/, doi:10.1167/9.12.19)

Published on November 24, 2009, the research was performed by Ursula Hess (University of Quebec at Montreal, Canada), Reginald B. Adams Jr. (The Pennsylvania State University, U.S.A.), Karl Grammer (University of Vienna, U.S.A.) and Robert E. Klefck (Dartmouth College, U.S.A.).

The abstract to their paper states, “Certain features of facial appearance perceptually resemble expressive cues related to facial displays of emotion.”

That is, they hypothesize that certain facial expressions, such as lowered eyebrows indicating anger, are more easily identified in the faces of men than they are in the faces of women.

They also hypothesize that an androgynous face (that is, neither male nor female in appearance) would be identified as a man more likely than as a woman when the facial expression of anger is added to it.

The researchers performed two experiments in which the participants were asked to identify the gender (sex) of faces.

They first asked participants to identify whether an androgynous face with (1) lowered eyebrows and tight lips—that is, looking angry—was a man or a woman and (2) smiles and raised eyebrows—that is, looking happy or fearful—was a man or a woman.

In the second experiment, they asked the participants to look at male and female faces that showed expressions of happiness, anger, fear, or sadness. They were also showed faces of men and women with no expression at all.

Page two concludes with the conclusions of the researchers.




The researchers found that masculine faces were identified easier than feminine faces. And, anger expressed on female faces were the most difficult to identify.

They concluded the certain facial expressions provide ways to identify gender in humans.

The researchers stated in their abstract, “The results of the two studies showed that happiness and fear expressions bias sex discrimination toward the female, whereas anger expressions bias sex perception toward the male.”

Canadian psychologist Ursula Hess, one of the authors of the study, stated, "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.” [EurekAlert: “Are angry women more like men?”]

Hess added, "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.”

And, “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."

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