A recent study found that how we perceive the emotional expression of a face or voice is strongly influenced by perceived sex, and vice versa. The study was published in the journal Emotion.
" class="story_para_1">The study also found that faces and voices were more likely to be judged as men when they were angry, and as women when they were happy. Dr. Sebastian Korb from the Department of Psychology expressed the hope that the research will be expanded and may help make us more aware of our underlying biases.
“This study shows how important it is not to rely too heavily on your first impressions, as they can easily be mistaken,” he said. “The next time you find yourself responsible for a woman’s happiness or sadness, be aware of your bias and potential misinterpretation,” he added.
“Interestingly, there was no gender divide in the way perceived gender of a face influenced emotional judgment – but women were slightly more sensitive to subtle changes in emotion overall,” they concluded.
The research used 121 avatar faces and 121 human voices, created by modifying the emotional expressions of sex on a sliding scale from happy to angry and from male to female. A total of 256 participants in the three studies were shown mock-ups or played voices and asked to judge feelings and whether one was male or female.
When comparing the size of the effects, it was found for both faces and voices that emotion influenced the perception of sex more than in other ways. It is thought that this may be due to unconscious activation of the amygdala, an important emotional center in the brain.
This almond-shaped group of neurons located deep in the brain allows us to rapidly detect and react to threats such as an angry attacker, but is not involved in determining a person’s gender. It was also hypothesized that being biased toward seeing males as angry is an evolutionary advantage as it prepares for the fight or flight response.
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