It's true: Men can't read women's emotions, study confirms [View all]
It's a cliché that men just don't understand women.
Now, new research suggests men really do struggle to read women's emotions — at least from their eyes.
The research, published Wednesday (April 10) in the journal PLOS ONE, showed that men had twice as much trouble deciphering women's emotions from images of their eyes compared with those of men. Parts of the male brain tied to emotion also didn't activate as strongly when the men looked at women's eyes.
To see whether men really did have trouble reading women's emotions, Boris Schiffer, a researcher at the LWL-University Hospital in Bochum, Germany and his colleagues put 22 men between the ages of 21 and 52, with an average age of 36, in a functional magnetic resonance imaging scanner, which uses blood flow as a measure of to measure their brain activity.
They then asked the men to look at images of 36 pairs of eyes, half from men and half from women, and guess the emotion the people felt. The men then chose which of two words, such as distrustful or terrified, best described the eyes' emotion. The eye photographs depicted positive, neutral, and negative emotions.
Men took longer and had more trouble correctly guessing emotion from women's eyes.
In addition, their brains showed different activation when looking at men versus women's eyes. Men's amygdala — a brain region tied to emotions, empathy, and fear — activated more strongly in response to men's eyes. In addition, other brain regions tied to emotion and behavior didn't activate as much when the men looked at women's eyes.