Recognition of emotion through point-light locomotion: gender impact
23.426, Saturday, May 11, 8:30 am - 12:30 pm, Orchid Ballroom
Marina A. Pavlova1, Samuel Krüger1, Alexander N. Sokolov2, Ingeborg Krägeloh-Mann1; 1Children's Hospital, University of Tübingen Medical School, 2Department of Psychosomatic Medicine and Psychotherapy, University of Tübingen Medical School
Veridical body language reading is important for daily-life social interaction and competence. Yet it is unclear whether the ability for veridical body language reading is impacted by gender. According to popular wisdom about female superiority in social cognition, females are reported to surpass in some aspects of body language reading. However, the existing data are sparse and controversial (Alaerts et al., 2011, PLoS One 6: e20989; Sokolov et al., 2011, Front Psychol. 2: 16). In the present work, female and male healthy young observers had to recognize emotions through point-light human locomotion performed by female and male actors with different emotional expressions (happy, angry, or neutral). For subtle emotional expressions, males surpass females in recognition of happy walking portrayed by female actors, whereas females tend to excel in recognition of hostile angry locomotion expressed by male actors. The lack of gender differences in error rate suggests that gender effects on recognition accuracy of emotions through locomotion are not caused by gender-related bias for misperceiving one emotion for another. In contrast to widespread beliefs about female superiority in body language reading, the findings suggest that gender effects in recognition of emotions from human locomotion are modulated by emotional content of actions and (opposite) actor gender. In a nutshell, the study makes a further step in understanding of gender impact on body language reading. Clarification of gender impact on body language reading and underlying brain networks would provide novel insights into understanding of gender vulnerability to neuropsychiatric and neurodevelopmental impairments in social cognition (Pavlova, 2012 Cerebral Cortex 22: 981-995).