Can we read emotions?
People often claim to be good at reading emotions, so we decided to put that to the test by conducting research based on Professor Simon Baron Cohen’s emotion recognition task. In our ten-question survey, over 10,000 respondents were shown the eyes of two people (alternating male and female) and tasked with selecting the correct emotion from four different options.By asking the respondents to complete a questionnaire prior to taking the test, we were able to suggest differences in visual intelligence between genders and age groups.

What did we discover?

read emotions

Read emotions? What is she thinking?

lightstargod / Pixabay

When asked to assess their visual intelligence, 50% of women rated their ability to read emotions as “above average, compared to 44% for men. The former’s confidence was validated by the fact that they posted a higher average score (5.0 out of 10) than the men (4.8). In addition, 64% of women scored five or above, while only 56% of men reached the same mark.

In terms of how each gender fared at detecting each emotion, men had a keener eye for spotting interest (men – 57.7%; women – 53.3%), desire (men – 41.9%; women – 38.9%) and hostility (men – 41.1%; women 39.5%), while women were better at identifying guilt (women – 35.4%; men – 30.5%) and vulnerable emotions such as shocked (women – 77.4%; men – 70.2%), scared (women – 70.8%; men – 60.9%) and pleading (women – 63.4%; men – 57.5%).

Across both genders, sympathy emerged as the hardest emotion to pick up on, with only 15.8% of respondents providing the correct answer. At the other end of the spectrum, shock was the emotion with the highest percentage of correct guesses (74%).

For some emotions, the ability to detect them improved significantly with age. Correct guesses for ashamed increased from 40.3% to 52.3% between the 18-24 and 65+ age groups, while correct guesses for sympathy rose from 12% to 18% between the same groups.

In this ten-question survey, respondents were shown the eyes of two people (one male, one female) and tasked with selecting the correct emotion from four different options.

What did we discover?

The average person identified fewer than half of the emotions

  • The respondents answered ten questions. The average score was 4.9.

Women believe their emotional intelligence is superior to men… and they were validated

  • 50% of women rated their ability to read emotions as “above average”, compared to 44% for men.
  • The average score for women was 5.0, whereas the men’s average was 4.8.
  • 64% of women scored five or above, while only 56% of men reached the same mark.

Men detect lust and anger better than women

  • Men were better than women at detecting interest, desire and hostility.
  • Interest: men (57.7%); women (53.3%).
  • Desire: men (41.9%); women (38.9%).
  • Hostile: men (41.1%); women (39.5%).

Women detect guilt better than men

  • Women correctly guessed identified guilt 35.4% of the time, while men only detected it 30.5% of the time.

Women detect vulnerability better than men

  • Women were better at detecting vulnerable emotions.
  • Shocked: women (77.4%); men (70.2%).
  • Scared: women (70.8%); men (60.9%).
  • Pleading: women (63.4%); men (57.5%).

Sympathy was the hardest emotion to detect; Shock was the easiest

  • Only 15.8% of respondents correctly noticed sympathy.
  • At the other end of the spectrum, 74% identified shock.

We detect shame and sympathy better as we age.

  • Correct guesses for ashamed increased from 40.3% (18-24 age group) to 52.3% (65+).
  • Correct guesses for sympathy increased from 12% (18-24 age group) to 18% (65+).

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