Sex differences in emotion recognition: Evidence for a small overall female superiority on facial disgust.

Although it is widely believed that females outperform males in the ability to recognize other people’s emotions, this conclusion is not well supported by the extant literature. The current study sought to provide a strong test of the female superiority hypothesis by investigating sex differences in emotion recognition for five basic emotions using stimuli well-calibrated for individual differences assessment, across two expressive domains (face and body), and in a large sample (N = 1,022: Study 1). We also assessed the stability and generalizability of our findings with two independent replication samples (N = 303: Study 2, N = 634: Study 3). In Study 1, we observed that females were superior to males in recognizing facial disgust and sadness. In contrast, males were superior to females in recognizing bodily happiness. The female superiority for recognition of facial disgust was replicated in Studies 2 and 3, and this observation also extended to an independent stimulus set in Study 2. No other sex differences were stable across studies. These findings provide evidence for the presence of sex differences in emotion recognition ability, but show that these differences are modest in magnitude and appear to be limited to facial disgust. We discuss whether this sex difference may reflect human evolutionary imperatives concerning reproductive fitness and child care. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2019 APA, all rights reserved)