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Sex Differences in Emotion: Expression and Experience

Sex Differences in Emotion: Expression and Experience
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   SEX DIFFERENCES IN EMOTION 1 Sex Differences in Emotion: Expression and Experience Çağla Bulut  University of Zadar Address correspondence to: Çağla Bulut  University of Zadar Ul. Mihovila Pavlinovića, 23000  Zadar/Croatia E-mail:     SEX DIFFERENCES IN EMOTION 2 Sex Differences in Emotion: Expression and Experience 1.Introduction Emotion is an important issue which affects a human’s life. In today ’ s, emotional differences among women and men are one of the most highly disputed issues at all levels of society. Also, there is folk wisdom which claims that women are more emotional than men. This folk wisdom maybe srcinated from this reason; even though women and men experience the same situation, they show different reactions. Firstly, we need to know what emotion means, to be able to discuss and explain these differences. Emotion is the state of mind which has associations with feelings, thoughts, degree of pleasure or displeasure, and behavioral responses. In human life, expression and experience of emotions have a really important position (Kret & De Gelder, 2012). The emotional difference between women and men can be caused by the difference in their expression. The stereotypes of women are more emotional than men might be caused by emotion expression differences between men and women. According to Barret at al. (2009), women are accepted as more emotional because they are more effortless with the language of emotion than men. Generally, women’s emotion can be understood by looking at their facial expression and social conversation, although actions like aggressive attitudes are men’s way to express their emotion (Kret & De Gelder, 2012). As an example, showing tears rate is five times more for women than men in many cultures (Walter, 2006). In society also, we generally see more smiling women than men. In the other hand, anger and acting aggressive ways are associated with men in the society which is an example of the idea that men are as emotional as women, but it can become distinct on type of emotion. 2. Possible Reasons 2.1. Cultural Influences What are the reasons for these expression differences in emotion? Firstly, cultural influences, society’s expectations  and social norms about how women and men should behave can affect sex differences in emotion expression such as smiling, crying, the attitude of aggressive, etc. In society, aggressiveness and angry behavior are associated with men rather than women. These facts caused by determined gender-roles by society. Since masculinity associated with aggressiveness and angry behavior, men who do not show this emotion labeled as weak and powerless. According to Hareli et al. (2009), men who show sadness and shame rated as lower in dominance in comparison to men who express angry emotions and   SEX DIFFERENCES IN EMOTION 3 aggression. These sex differences in emotion expression start in childhood (Chaplin & Aldao, 2013) . They also added that there are sayings like “boys don’t cry”, “girls are made of sugar, spices, and everything nice”   which show society’s expectations about girls can express their happiness or sadness, but boys should be strong and cool. Denham (2007) stated that emotion expression differences are learned in social ways. In society, aggressive boys are more socially acceptable and likable than nonaggressive ones. 4-5 years old girls start to hide their aggressiveness and by age 7- 8, boys start to show more anger than girls like adults’ emotion expression differences (Kret & De Gelder, 2012). According to Chrisler and Donald (2010), indirect aggression is used by women in public life while they use direct aggression in private. On the other hand, if the emotion is positive women don’t abstain to expres s their emotions. Their expression of smiling and crying are not influenced by if the surrounding is public or  private, they show the same emotion in both conditions. Instead, men show their happiness and sentimentality as similar to women in private conditions, but they don’t express these emotions when the condition is public. Because they think that their emotions are not matching with the stereotype which claims that “men should be tough and aggressive”. From another angle, Tracy and Beall (2011) stated that women’s smile s increase their physical attractiveness and improve their sex charm while smiling is not effective in attracting women for men. Moreover, Bosson and Vandelo (2011) claimed that since men feel like their masculinity is threatened, they will be aggressive when someone asking them to do jobs which are associated with women in society. 2.2. Evolutionary Factors Vigil (2008) claimed that since early hominoids, gender differences in emotion adapted to social structures. In this time, men stayed in their natal groups while women moved from their groups to take care of their preverbal children. In history and today still, generally, women are responsible for taking care of children. Also, women have been responsible for  protecting themselves’ and their children’ benefits. That’s why, understanding other’s emotional cues and improving social bonding have much more significance for women than men (Kret & De Gelder, 2012). On the other hand, in the evolutionary perspective for men, it has more importance to the understanding of threat cues from others who are their competitors and recognition of anger than women. This situation causes men’s expressi on of anger and aggression are higher than women.   SEX DIFFERENCES IN EMOTION 4 2.3. Biological Differences According to biological theorists, there are innate biological differences among women and men. These differences which cause gender differences in behavior can exist since birth like genetic differences or can exist during puberty like hormone differences. According to Chaplin and Aldao (2013), in early childhood, arousal rate is higher in boys than girls and  boys have less inhibitory controls than girls. Zahn-Waxler et al. (2008) stated that gender differences in sex hormones’ influence  in utero such as testosterone and estrogen make a significant contribution to differences in body and brain of women and men. Because of the  boys ’ lower abilities about inhibitory control than girls, they have a problem with negative emotions’ regulating and this causes showing more anger (Chaplin & Aldao, 2013). They also claimed that males’ sensitivity to threat is more improved than women and testosterone hormone can be a reason for this. Hiroi and Neumaier (2011)’s findings of estrogen hormone’s roles suggested that  behaviors may be directly influenced by ovarian hormones and they have a significant effect on emotional influences. 3. Recognizing Emotions There are a lot of studies which search for sex differences in recognition of emotions. Researches show that just like their emotion expression difference, women and men also have differences about recognizing facial expressions of emotion. Majority of them show that women can identify facial affects better than men (Hampson et al., 2006). But others stated that looking pattern differences between men and women participants can affect differences in recognizing the facial expression of emotion. According to Vassallo et al. (2009), women  participants are faster (not more correct answer) than men in describing happy facial expressions while men spend dramatically more time analyzing mouth and nose. Some studies state that these gender difference s’ reason can be  a type of emotion. The problem of these studies is all of them use photographs but in real life, expression of emotion is based on dynamism. According to recent researches, the movement has a significant effect on emotional paradigms. As a result of this fact, gender differences in recognizing dynamic expressions cannot be observed properly (Kret et al., 2011). Nonetheless, Biele and Grabowska (2006) stated that women’s dynamic expression has more intensiveness rate for  both of anger and happiness while men have just for anger. Some researchers claimed that sex of observer, sex of observee and their interaction can affect the results. As an example of this, for the majority of society, strong man who expresses anger is considered a bigger threat than   SEX DIFFERENCES IN EMOTION 5 a woman who is less strong compared to a man. There is also evidence for it too, men faces who express anger and disgust have substantially faster responses than women faces who express anger and disgust (Seidel et al., 2010). They also added that positively ratings for female faces are higher than male faces for women participants. According to Marsh et al. (2005)’s observations, the quickest responses are for women who express fear and subjects responded slower to men than female faces. Armony and Sergerie (2007) also stated that women subjects could remember fearful female faces better than fearful male faces. As a result, it seems that when the topic is emotion recognition there is a women advantage, but we need to know that it can depend on situations and type of emotion. Moreover, sex of the observee and stimuli which is more like real life can affect recognition of emotion results. Biological factors such as chromosomal and hormonal differences among women and men participants can also affect them in recognition of emotion. To conclude, there are obvious expression and recognition differences among women and men, but it doesn’t certainly mean that their experiences of emotion are also different.


Oct 16, 2019
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