Why are women better decoders of nonverbal language?



Publication Details

Gulabovska, M. & Leeson, P. (2014). Why are women better decoders of nonverbal language?. Gender Issues, 31 (3-4), 202-218.


Women have consistently been found to be better decoders of nonverbal language compared to men. It is unknown however, whether this sex difference is biological or non-biological in nature. The current study sought to test for the first time the effect emotional intelligence (EI), trait dominance, and psychological gender had on nonverbal decoding accuracy. 86 undergraduate university students (43 males and 43 female), mean age 20.86 years old, completed the mini-Profile of Nonverbal Sensitivity, the Mayer-Salovey-Caruso Emotional Intelligence Test, the Dominance Subscale of The Sixteen Personality Factor Questionnaire, and the Bem Sex-Role Inventory. Overall women were found to score 4.35 points significantly higher than men in nonverbal ability, 95 % CI [−2.31, 2.31], and 7.15 points significantly higher than men in EI, 95 % CI [−5.97, 5.97]. Higher EI scores were also found to predict significantly greater nonverbal decoding accuracy. These findings suggest that EI rather than biological sex appears to be the salient factor in an individual's nonverbal decoding accuracy. Trait dominance, and participants' masculinity and femininity scores however, were not found to be significantly correlated with nonverbal decoding ability, thus the non-biological model of EI, trait dominance, and psychological gender did not account for significantly more unique variance in decoding accuracy, compared to the biological model when biological sex alone was considered.

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