Do Women Smile More Than Men? New Research On Expression And Gender Differences

It’s fairly common for neutral-faced women to be scolded by complete strangers for not smiling while men can freely rest their facial muscles in public without being labeled as having a “resting bitch face” (or whatever the male equivalent may be). The stereotype that women smile more is prevalent, and while previous research has shown this is true, a new study aims to settle whether or not they’re actually the more expressive gender.

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A team of scientists enlisted 1,862 people between the ages of 16 and 82 to watch video advertisements. While watching 10 ads at home, viewers’ facial expressions were recorded with their own webcams then analyzed using an automated coding technology. Ad content ranged, and included food, pet supplies and cosmetics.

“We find that women are not universally more expressive across all facial actions,” the authors write in the paper, explaining that the frequency of expression depends on the type of emotion.

beauty-1721069_1920 (1) Yes, women actually do smile more than men. Pixabay

For example, men raised their inner brows less than women (10.4 percent versus 11.4 percent), which is an action used to express fear or surprise. When it came to outer brow raises, there was no difference found between the sexes. Men and women also showed downturned mouths in the same frequency, though women did hold the expression for longer periods. Women were shown to furrow their brows less often than men (19.3 percent as opposed to 22 percent) and held the expression for a shorter length of time too. As previous research indicated, women did smile significantly more, roughly 26 percent of the time versus 19.7 percent. They also held their grins for longer than men.

People from France, Germany, China, the United States and the United Kingdom participated in the study, and researchers found that results were consistent among the countries, however effect sizes differed slightly. In Germany, the UK and the U.S., for example, women smiled a greater percentage of the time than their counterparts in France and China. When it came to furrowing their brows, females hailing from Germany and the UK were shown to exhibit the behavior less than participants in the other two countries. Women in Germany and China were more apt to raise their inner brows than those in America, France and the UK. Researchers believe this could be due to cultural differences, though more research would need to be done.

“There is considerable evidence to suggest that gender differences in expressive behavior are significant,” the authors write in the paper. However, they do acknowledge the study’s main shortfall, which is that participants were aware of being recorded, which could alter responses. However, this does add to prior research that men and women do express emotions differently.

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Everyday Health reports that a study looking at 55 cultures found that women were more emotionally agreeable, extraverted and conscientious than men. Other studies have found that women are able to gauge other people’s emotions better than men, and that the two sexes experience love and anger differently.

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