A new study finds that men have a harder time reading women's emotions than they do other men's -- because they use different parts of their brain when trying to identify feelings in women versus in men.
In the study published in PLOS ONE, the researchers examined the brains of 22 male participants as they conducted a well-established empathy test called "Reading the Mind in the Eyes Test."
The test consists of snapshots of sets of eyes, and subjects have to guess whether the eyes belong to a male or female, and then what emotional state the eyes are expressing, reports Discover magazine. While subjects performed the test, researchers examined their brain activity via MRI scans.
The male subjects did equally well at guessing the gender of the male and female eyes, but they did much worse at recognizing the emotions of the female eyes -- about twice as bad researchers said. Subjects correctly interpreted women's emotions 76 percent of the time, compared to 87 percent of the time for men's eyes, and also took longer to guess them.
As to why this happens, it could be evolutionary, reports Discover. The researchers say that, to aid in territorial battles for example, it may have been beneficial for men to accurately and rapidly interpret another man's facial expressions. But still, while there are differences in how men read male and female emotions, the scientists say that men still do a decent job at understanding women, most of the time.
Prior research has found that when compared to women, men are better at identifying facial expressions of anger, while women are better at recognizing fear and sadness.