Thursday, December 18, 2008
Angry or Happy?
According to a poll on the blog Cognitive Daily (2008), most readers pictured a male angry face, consistently with the results of Becker et al's (2007) study which found that not only were subjects more likely to identify men as angry and women as happy, but they were more likely to identify angry faces as men, and happy faces as women. The authors suggest that this may be due to anatomical differences between men's and women's faces: as the CogDaily post notes: "maybe men's typically larger brow and thinner lips compared to women just look a little angrier".
However, this result has not been universally found, which explains Becker et al's title: "The confounded nature of angry men and happy women." For example, Hess et al (2004) found that female faces were rated as angrier. Trnka et al (2007) found no gender difference in the accuracy of emotional ratings of faces. Perhaps most interestingly, none of these studies reported a difference by rater gender: women did not show a tendency for more accurate ratings of other people's emotions.
In a conversation about other people's perceptions last night, I said: "I always make my 'non-threatening' roll." I feel like I get angry a lot, but I don't think people see it on me very often. Even when they do, they don't take it very seriously. From a strictly physical threat point-of-view, this makes a lot of sense. I'm slightly built and short. I do not pose a physical threat to most people. There are ways in which this is an advantage. I have used this to defuse uncomfortable situations in bars by intervening where someone else would have escalated it. Generally, however, I mostly feel like I'm not taken seriously. Luckily, most of the time I'm not serious.
In terms of gender differences, I have noticed that anger seems like a more default condition since starting testosterone therapy, and I was surprised that none of the studies seemed to mention hormonal differences on mood. However, I didn't read any of them as carefully as I wanted to, so if you see something about testosterone in one of them, please draw it to my attention.
Find out the day's topic before you read: follow diffblog on Twitter! Diffblog also available on LiveJournal.