Differences in the recognition of sadness, anger, and fear in facial expressions: the role of the observer and model gender
This study investigated gender differences in the accuracy and speed of recognition of facial expressions of sadness, anger, and fear in male and female models showing these emotions. According to the fitness threat hypothesis, females should be faster and more accurate in recognising emotional facial expressions of fear and sadness, whereas males should be faster and more accurate in recognising anger. According to the evolutionary opponent's emotion recognition, male observers should be more efficient in recognising emotions presented by male models, and female observers in recognising emotions presented by female models. The facial expression recognition task included 210 colour images from the Karolinska Directed Emotional Faces (KDEF) database. The sample consisted of university students (29 male and 29 female). Testing was conducted individually, and efficiency measured with accuracy and speed of recognition (reaction time). The results showed that females were faster than males in recognizing all three facial expressions. They were also more accurate in recognizing fear, whereas there were no gender differences in accurate recognition of sadness and anger. No significant interactions were found between model and observer gender on either measure (accuracy and speed of recognition). However, all three emotional expressions were recognised more accurately, but not faster, when the model was female. The gender-specific pattern in facial expression recognition found in this study does not completely corroborate the fitness threat hypothesis.
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