Tag Archives: sexes

Credit: Pixabay.

Women aren’t more expressive than men, contrary to the common stereotype

You’ll hear a lot of people claim women are more expressive than men. But according to a new paper published by researchers at Microsoft who used a facial algorithm en mass, this doesn’t seem true at all. Instead, the gender pattern is actually more nuanced. For instance, some emotions are displayed more by men than women.

Credit: Pixabay.

Credit: Pixabay.

The team led by Daniel McDuff, a scientist working at Microsoft Research, Redmond, recruited online 2,106 people from France, Germany, China, the US, and the UK. The participants were asked to watch a series of ads from their own countries on everything from cars to fashion to manufacturing which elicited various emotional responses. They had to film themselves with their own webcams while doing so.

Each video was analyzed by Microsoft’s facial recognition machine which understands emotional patterns from facial expressions. Here’s a glimpse of how it works. The fact that this whole process is automated is a huge advantage, especially for something as subjective as assessing emotions. Since a machine did all the facial analysis, instead of multiple human researchers, we can at least get an objective, unified review.

According to the findings:

  • women do seem to smile more, mirroring previous research. They also raise their inner brow more which generally reflects fear or sadness. However,
  • men frowned more. Frowns are usually indicative of anger, though it can reflect a state of confusion or concentration.
  • otherwise, there were no gender differences in other facial expressions.

If we’re to believe emotions and facial expressions are closely associated, the obvious implication is that women are more prone to feeling happy but also to feel more anxious. Men, on the other hand, are more likely to feel angry and, maybe, confused. If this is the case, why? What evolutionary mechanisms could have supported this gender difference?


The mean fraction of videos in which inner brow raises, outer brow raises, brow furrows, lip corner pulls and lip corner depressors appeared. Credit: PLOS ONE.

The researchers believe that some of the findings can be partly explained by cultural and social expectations. For instance, in many countries happiness is considered more desirable for women than for men. The paper highlights the observed data from the UK where the smallest difference in gender variation was seen.

Nevertheless, apart from some differences across countries in smiling and frowning, the gender difference in expressivity was far less pronounced than the stereotype might have us think.

Older men want younger women, science shows

Feeling the need for scientific research to back up the ‘dirty old men’ myth, Gothenburg University and Oxford University scientists performed a study on 400 lonely hearts ads to see how men and women choose their partners. What they wanted was to test some theories about how men and women pick their partners in general.

By examining these ads, they found out what any man in his right mind already knows (this applies to most, not everybody). Women search for solid resources and an established social status. As a result, men often include ‘large house’ and ‘economically independent’ in their ads.

Men search for younger women, only about 1 man in 100 searching for a woman of similar or older age. However, young women search for older men. Actually, almost all women under 60 search for older partners. After they hit that magic number, they start thinking about younger partners (yeah, really).

“When it comes to physical characteristics, it turned out that men and women were the same. Both used words like, ‘athletic,’ ‘beautiful,’ ‘pretty,’ ‘tall,’ ‘handsome,’ and ‘trim’ to the same extent, and this goes both for their descriptions of themselves and for the characteristics they were looking for in a partner,” says Jörgen Johnsson at the Department of Zoology, University of Gothenburg, one of the researchers behind the study.
“This might indicate that men have learned to respond to women’s interest in looks, therefore stressing to the same extent their attractiveness in the ads. The fact that both sexes focus on looks may also be influenced by our times, with the great fixation on appearance in the media.”