Women typically outperform men on the ability to assess other people’s nonverbal behavior. This difference might occur because women are taught to be more sensitive to emotional and nonverbal cues at a very early age compared to men. As a consequence, women might use a more favorable cognitive processing style than men during nonverbal decoding. The present study investigated whether this gender difference is due to the use of different cognitive information processing styles (global or local). Participants (N = 137) were Swiss undergraduate students that were randomly assigned to either a global (focusing on the whole) or a local (focusing on details) priming of information processing style, or to a control group. They then performed a nonverbal decoding task. Results showed that compared to the control group, local priming had beneficial and global priming detrimental effects for nonverbal decoding accuracy. This was due to an improved performance in men after the local priming; women’s performance was not significantly affected by the local priming. Global priming increased nonverbal decoding accuracy in men and decreased performance in women. We conclude that women already use the more beneficial local processing style by default and that men’s performance can be boosted when providing them a processing strategy.
Sex Roles – Springer Journals
Published: Apr 14, 2011
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