Men Can’t Read Women’s Minds

From NBC News:

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. 

The findings suggest that men are worse at reading women’s emotions.  This “theory of mind” is one of the foundations  for empathy, so the deficit could lead men to have less empathy for women  relative to men, the researchers write.

But exactly why this happens  isn’t clear. While men could be culturally conditioned to pay less attention to  women’s emotional cues, another possibility is that their differential response  is hard-wired by humans’ evolutionary past.

“As men were more involved  in hunting and territory fights, it would have been important for them to be  able to predict and foresee the intentions and actions of their male rivals,”  the researchers write in the paper.

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