June 08, 2006

Why men smile less than women

Physiol Behav. 2006 Jun 2; [Epub ahead of print]

Gender differences in smiling: An evolutionary neuroandrogenic theory.

Ellis L.

Studies have found that, under a wide variety of social circumstances, females are more likely than males to smile. The present article offers a theoretical explanation for this difference based on the premise that testosterone (along with other sex hormones) has evolved the tendency to alter brain functioning in ways that inhibit male smiling, especially during their most reproductively active years. Underlying the theory are the assumptions that (a) females have been naturally selected for preferring to mate with males who have the ability to assist in long-term child rearing primarily by provisioning resources, that (b) males partially accommodate this female preference by competing with rival males who are also vying for resources with which to attract mates, and that (c) male smiling interferes with their ability to most effectively intimidate rivals. If this reasoning is correct, genes must be involved in promoting the tendency to compete for resources, the most likely location for which would be on the Y-chromosome. According to the present theory, these genes operate in part by inhibiting social signals of fear and submissiveness. An additional element of the theory asserts that testosterone alters brain functioning in ways that shift the neocortex away from the left (more "prosocial and friendly") hemisphere toward the right (less "prosocial and friendly") hemisphere. Current evidence bearing on the theory is reviewed and a number of largely untested hypotheses are derived from the theory for future assessment of its predictive power.


No comments: