Sex differences in the ability to recognise non-verbal displays of emotion: A meta-analysis

Ashley E. Thompson, Daniel Voyer

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

281 Scopus citations


The present study aimed to quantify the magnitude of sex differences in humans' ability to accurately recognise non-verbal emotional displays. Studies of relevance were those that required explicit labelling of discrete emotions presented in the visual and/or auditory modality. A final set of 551 effect sizes from 215 samples was included in a multilevel meta-analysis. The results showed a small overall advantage in favour of females on emotion recognition tasks (d = 0.19). However, the magnitude of that sex difference was moderated by several factors, namely specific emotion, emotion type (negative, positive), sex of the actor, sensory modality (visual, audio, audio-visual) and age of the participants. Method of presentation (computer, slides, print, etc.), type of measurement (response time, accuracy) and year of publication did not significantly contribute to variance in effect sizes. These findings are discussed in the context of social and biological explanations of sex differences in emotion recognition.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1164-1195
Number of pages32
JournalCognition and Emotion
Issue number7
StatePublished - Oct 2014

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
Correspondence should be addressed to: Daniel Voyer, Department of Psychology, University of New Brunswick, PO Box 4400, Fredericton, NB, Canada E3B 5A3. E-mail: This research was made possible by a research grant awarded by the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC) to D. Voyer. The authors are indebted to Megan Cummings for her assistance with data retrieval.


  • Emotion recognition
  • Meta-analysis
  • Sex differences


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