In fact, it’s men who need to smile more
New research continues to show that male faces are more likely than female faces to be associated with anger. So come on handsome, can you give me a smile?
The sun is kind of shining and the pandemic is kind of over (or at least we’re acting like it is), which means it’s only a matter of weeks before some asshole on the street tells me that I would be prettier if I smiled. But this year, instead of pearly whites and swear words, these guys have a bite of science, as new research confirms what I suspected all along: men are the ones who need to smile the most.
The research specifically builds on previous data on how men’s faces are more likely to be associated with anger. “Previous research shows that female faces are associated with happiness or sadness, and male faces with anger,” Sebastian Korb, the study’s lead author, told me.
Korb’s work adds to the validity of these past findings by testing vocal biases as well, across three separate experiments and a total of 256 participants, including men and women. Subjects observed 121 avatar faces and 121 human voices, created by computers and statistical modeling to illustrate the scale of emotional expression from joy to anger, as well as a similar scale from male to female
The results revealed that the perception of anger had a greater influence on the participants’ likelihood of guessing that the faces and avatars were male, as opposed to the perception that they were male influencing emotional predictions. “We found that the implicit effect of emotion was larger than the implicit effect of sex,” says Korb, noting that this was not surprising, “but it was important to show it.”
Korb and his team believe this bias is the result of unconscious activation of the amygdala, a tiny, almond-shaped emotional center in the brain that helps us detect threats. Their study and previous research indicate that these biases are stronger in situations where there is more ambiguity, suggesting that there may be an evolutionary advantage to assuming that all angry faces are male. When you do this, you’re more likely to survive because you’re less likely to underestimate them as the angry Karen you should just ignore.
Men’s takeout is all I’ve ever wanted. “Sending clear, emotional signals, such as smiling instead of keeping a neutral face, and speaking in a friendly tone, should negate the bias,” Korb says, adding that men might also “mistake the ‘a woman is friendlier than she really is’. East.”
Funnily enough, this is news that made me smile for the first time in days.