A large-scale analysis of sex differences in facial expressions


There exists a stereotype that women are more expressive than men; however, research has almost exclusively focused on a single facial behavior, smiling. A large-scale study examines whether women are consistently more expressive than men or whether the effects are dependent on the emotion expressed. Studies of gender differences in expressivity have been somewhat restricted to data collected in lab settings or which required labor-intensive manual coding. In the present study, we analyze gender differences in facial behaviors as over 2,000 viewers watch a set of video advertisements in their home environments. The facial responses were recorded using participants’ own webcams. Using a new automated facial coding technology we coded facial activity. We find that women are not universally more expressive across all facial actions. Nor are they more expressive in all positive valence actions and less expressive in all negative valence actions. It appears that generally women express actions more frequently than men, and in particular express more positive valence actions. However, expressiveness is not greater in women for all negative valence actions and is dependent on the discrete emotional state.