London, Dec 27 (UiTV/IANS) – Do you know why your spouse can read another person’s thoughts and feelings better than you (she can read your mind too)? Researchers now have an answer.
On average, women score higher than males on the widely-used ‘Reading the Mind in the Eyes’ test, which measures ‘theory of mind’ (also known as ‘cognitive empathy’).
This finding was observed across all ages and most countries, as per a new study of over 300,000 people in 57 countries.
Importantly, there was no country where males on average scored significantly higher than females on the test, according to the study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS).
“Our results provide some of the first evidence that the well-known phenomenon – that females are on average more empathic than males – is present in a wide range of countries across the globe. It’s only by using very large data sets that we can say this with confidence,” said Dr David M. Greenberg, the lead scientist from the University of Cambridge in the UK.
For decades, researchers have studied the development of theory of mind, from infancy to old age. One of the most widely used tests with which to study theory of mind is the ‘Reading the Mind in the Eyes’ Test (or Eyes Test, for short), which asks participants to pick which word best describes what the person in the photo is thinking or feeling, just by viewing photos of the eye region of the face.
The Eyes Test was first developed in 1997 by Professor Sir Simon Baron-Cohen and his research team at Cambridge, was revised in 2001, and has become a well-established assessment of theory of mind.
The study showed that across the 57 countries, females on average scored significantly higher than males (in 36 countries), or similar to males (in 21 countries), on the Eyes Test.
“The Eyes Test reveals that many individuals struggle to read facial expressions, for a variety of reasons. Support should be available for those who seek it,” said Professor Sir Simon, Director of the Autism Research Centre at Cambridge University, and senior author on the study.