The myth of female intuition exploded by fake smile test

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The Independent Online

Female intuition is a myth, according to a scientific study. An internet test into the truthfulness of a person's face has revealed that if anything men are better than women when it comes to spotting when something is wrong.

Female intuition is a myth, according to a scientific study. An internet test into the truthfulness of a person's face has revealed that if anything men are better than women when it comes to spotting when something is wrong.

More than 15,000 members of the public have taken part in the online experiment since it began nearly two weeks ago.

Researchers wanted to test how easy it was to tell whether a person's smiling face was genuine or fake and whether some people were better than others at detecting a phoney.

People viewed 10 pairs of photographs showing smiling faces; one smile in each pair was genuine and one was fake.

Professor Richard Wiseman, of Hertfordshire University in Hatfield, who organised the test for the Edinburgh International Science Festival, said: "We have amassed a huge amount of information, and initial analyses from the festival events have already yielded some fascinating findings."

Before they were asked to make their judgements, participants had to rate themselves on their perceived ability to be intuitive in judging a person's face.

Women rated themselves considerably more intuitive than men, with 77 per cent of female participants classifying themselves as highly intuitive and just 58 per cent of men.

And yet, when it came to making accurate judgements there was little difference, with men spotting 72 per cent of the genuine smiles and women detecting 71 per cent of them.

What was even more intriguing was that men seemed to be better than women at detecting fake smiles in the opposite sex. Men correctly detected 76 per cent of fake female smiles whereas women detected just 67 per cent of men's fake smiles.

"These findings question the notion that women really are more intuitive than men. Some previous research has found evidence for female intuition, but perhaps over time men have become more in touch with their intuitive side," Professor Wiseman said.

"Interestingly, one of the pairs of photographs was judged very differently by men and women, with 82 per cent of men detecting the fake smile versus just 64 per cent of women. It is hoped that additional analyses will help discover what is so unusual about this image," he said.

The study also attempted to find which part of the face gives the best clues about whether a smile is genuine or fake.

When the lower half of the face was masked, the ability to detect a fake collapsed, showing how important the mouth was for expressing happiness. In photographs showing only the top half of the head, fake smiles were detected only 38 per cent of the time.

Professor Wiseman said that the study also showed that men were better at faking a smile than women with participants correctly detecting just 65 per cent of male fake smiles compared to 74 per cent of female fake smiles.

"The ability to accurately judge the emotions of others is an essential psychological skill in almost every area of life," Professor Wiseman said. "This study aims to discover who is especially good and bad at this mysterious skill, as well as providing some insight into how people can improve their intuitive abilities."

More than 100 events took place in the Edinburgh International Science Festival, which ran from 1-10 April.

Test yourself at www.sciencefestival.co.uk

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