Gender differences in emotional expressiveness is not a new area of study by any means. There are many different studies which analyse the way in which males and females are seen to express different levels of emotion and how each possesses some stereotypical emotions which are deemed socially acceptable for males and females to display. These socially acceptable displays of emotion, with regard to gender, are usually instilled in the members of a culture from early childhood.
Movies and TV shows abound with this gender dichotomy in emotional expressiveness, with strong men who say little and reveal even less with their facial expressions (think Dirty Harry, the Duke, Agent Gibbs, Walt Longmire), and equally strong but very expressive women who wear their hearts on their sleeves (think of Scarlet O’Hara, Ellen Ripley, Erin Brockovich, Bridget Jones). But is it just a Hollywood stereotype, or are women actually more emotionally expressive than men?
Through examining the participants’ Facebook and Twitter accounts it was observed that there were six common techniques that were used to express emotion. This is not to say that there were no more than six: these were the most common and it was therefore decided that these emotional expressive markers would be observed for this study.
The emotion markers analysed were:
- the extensive use of punctuation markers (such as !! and ?? )
- the use of extensive full stops used within a speech sample (e.g. ………); only three or more were considered to be extensive use, as two could merely be a typing error
- the use of capitalized text
- the addition of the same letter within a word (e.g. yeeeeeees)
- the general use of emotions (e.g. , )
- the different means of expressing laughter (e.g. lol, hehe, haha )
There are still more questions to be answered. Are women and men relatively more expressive for happiness and anger, respectively, because they experience these emotions more intensely? Unfortunately, participants did not report their internal emotional reactions to the ads, and so there is no way to make a direct connection between facial expression and emotional experience. In addition, because the researchers focused on facial behaviors rather than distinct internal emotional states, little is known about sex differences in reactions to specific states like disgust, hope, or gratitude. As scientists further pursue these questions, we can be fairly confident in one thing: Despite Hollywood portrayals, women are not universally expressive and men are not consistently stoic. Instead, the intensity of the reaction is likely to depend not only on the sex of the individual but also on the specific emotional state.