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Since the writings of Charles Darwin, a facial expression has been regarded by many researchers as a primary element in the description of emotions. For example, referring to his work, Hess and Thibault state that the ability to express emotions facially developed in humans as a part of the protection mechanism that prepared the body for action and fulfilled a communicative function (120). The expressive element of feelings is typical for all people.
However, gender differences in the expression of facial emotions may be observed. According to Aleman and Swart, these differences are defined by both social and neurological factors (e3622). Building on the evidence discussed in these studies, and focusing on the protective function of expressing emotions, the given research project will aim to explore the differences in female and male expressions of disgust.
Gender differences in the function of this disease protection mechanism are widely discussed in the literature. As stated by Skolnick, disgust is believed to “functionally keep all people safe from potentially contaminating stimuli,” yet it is considered that “women show higher disgust than men” (145). Additionally, Wingenbach et al. note that females show a significant advantage in recognition of facial expressions and emotional intensity as well (e0190634).
However, it is not clear why women are more easily disgusted and are more sensitive in the perception of emotions. Some theories suggest that it is due to gender asymmetries in the costs associated with particular choices (namely, mating and engagement in sex), as well as maternal instincts and the need to keep children safe (Al-Shawaf et al. 156). Through a systematic literature review and evaluation of theories, the proposed study will aim to explore in greater detail how environmental factors can affect females’ expressions of disgust in comparison to males.
It is hypothesized that biological and social stimuli associated with the roles women and males played throughout the course of evolution largely define their disgust behaviors. The analysis will start with the clarification of concepts and proceed to the explanation of possible relationships among them based on the research evidence located in the reviewed studies.
Aleman, André, and Marte Swart. “Sex Differences in Neural Activation to Facial Expressions Denoting Contempt and Disgust.” PloS ONE, vol. 3, no., 11, 2008, p. e3622.
Al-Shawaf, Laith, et al. “Sex Differences in Disgust: Why Are Women More Easily Disgusted Than Men?” Emotion Review, vol. 10, no. 2, 2018, pp. 149-160.
Hess, Ursula, and Pascal Thibault. “Darwin and Emotion Expression.” American Psychologist, vol. 64, no. 2, 2009, pp. 120-128.
Skolnick, Alexander J. “Gender Differences When Touching Something Gross: Unpleasant? No. Disgusting? Yes!” The Journal of General Psychology, vol. 140, no. 2, 2013, pp. 144-157.
Wingenbach, Tanja, et al. “Sex Differences in Facial Emotion Recognition across Varying Expression Intensity Levels from Videos.” PLoS ONE, vol. 13, no. 1, 2018, p. e0190634.