It's official: women's intuition is real
Men can't multi-task. Women are more empathetic. Men are more confident at work. Women are better cooks.
These binary gender assumptions are drilled so deeply into our consciousness, we almost take them as gospel. It's as if your gender predisposes you to a rigid set of characteristics; a label that allows strangers to make sweeping generalisations about you before you've so much as uttered a word.
But sometimes these sometimes these stereotypes carry a seed of truth. As a study led by Cambridge University recently discovered, women are better than men at reading people's emotions, legitimising what has long been called 'women's intuition'.
If you canvassed a room full of women about their experiences with intuition, you'd be met with a knowing murmur. While we experience it to different degrees, it's fair to say we've all encountered that niggling sixth sense, a feeling of unease rising in your gut, like when you get bad vibes from a guy hitting on you or that sinking feeling when you've misplaced something important.
Researchers from around the world tested if there were genetic variants associated with cognitive empathy - that is, our ability to be able to understand another person's emotional state just by looking into their eyes.
Katrina Grasby from QIMR Berghofer said 90,000 people were shown different photographs of people's eyes and asked to determine their mood. The results: women consistently outperformed men in identifying the correct emotion.
"Using this technique, we can get a measure on how those people accurately perceive the emotion," Ms Grasby said.
"The participant selects one of four options to say what the emotion is they have perceived. And we found that females performed better than men on the test."
But the study did raise more questions. Namely, what it is about women that make them better at this than men?
"We don't know what makes women better at reading emotions," she says, adding, "The more interesting questions are, 'Why do people differ in their ability to read emotions?', 'What are the processes that are occurring on a neurobiological level?' and can the answers to these questions enlighten understanding of more complex psychological disorders?"
The study was led by the University of Cambridge and involved collaborators from Australia, France, the Netherlands, and the United States.
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