New research published in Biological Psychology provides evidence that women are better than men at recognizing their emotions. The study indicates that women tend to exhibit greater emotional response concordance compared to their male counterparts.
“Past studies on emotional responding rarely account for sex differences. However, sex differences could explain diverging findings between studies, particularly with regard to emotional concordance – the synchronization of experiential (self-report), physiological, and behavioral response systems,” said study author Julina A. Rattel, a member of the Clinical Stress and Emotion Lab at the University of Salzburg.
“Although women are thought to be more emotionally aware and expressive than men and may therefore display stronger response concordance, research on this topic is scant.”
In the study, 44 participants watched 15 short film clips as the researchers recorded their autonomic, respiratory, and facial muscular-behavioral responses. Each participant also reported his or her subjective emotional experience immediately following each clip.
Rattel and her colleagues found that women tended to display stronger concordances than men. In other words, women’s subjective self-reported emotions tended to more closely mirror their objectively-measured responses.
The findings “provide strong support that emotions are composed of multiple response systems (self-report, physiology, and behavior) that cohere across multiple situations,” Rattel told PsyPost.
“Present results revealed higher response concordance in women than men across a range of physiological and behavioral measures. This fits with research showing that women are better than men at recognizing emotions, express themselves more easily and pay more attention to and be more aware of their emotions.”
In addition, the sex difference in emotional concordance did not appear to be the result of differences in emotional reactivity.
But the study — like all research — includes some limitations.
“Although the present study found strong associations both between experiential and physiological and between experiential and behavioral measures, we cannot draw any conclusions with regard to the directionality of this relationship. In the current study, physiological reactions to films might have triggered or enhanced subjective feelings of arousal and valence or vice versa,” Rattel said.
“Our current thinking favors the view that evolution brought about highly interacting central and peripheral nervous system circuits and pathways that result in dynamically interacting, bi-directional, and recursive experiential, physiological, and behavioral responses, making it hard to dissect temporal relationships; though, this view needs further testing.”
The study, “Sex Differences in Emotional Concordance“, was authored by Julina A. Rattel, Iris B. Mauss, Michael Liedlgruber, and Frank. H. Wilhelm.