Skip to main content

The Globe and Mail

Can’t tell what her eyes are saying? You’re probably a guy

Guys, these are the eyes of a 1) angry 2) sad 3) worried woman. Pick one.


For every woman who has ever wondered why some men just don't get it, science now has the answer.

A new study says men often don't have a clue what a woman's eyes are saying, and that the reason for this lies deep in men's unevolved brains.

In the study involving "a sample of healthy male participants," researchers found that men looking at close-up photos of human eyes were twice as likely to correctly identify the mood expressed in the eyes of a man as in those of a woman.

Story continues below advertisement

The researchers scanned the subjects' brains as they looked at the photos and found that the exercise lit up the parts of the brain associated with past feelings and thoughts. The men were able to relate what they saw in male eyes to their own experience, but often drew a blank when looking at a woman's eyes.

As well, the part of the brain associated with empathy was more active in men looking into other men's eyes than that of men looking at a woman's eyes.

The researchers believe the results stem from an early adaptation in the human brain that helped men survive a world in which other men posed the greatest threat to their survival.

"From an evolutionary point of view, accurate interpretations of other men's rather than women's thoughts and intentions, especially threatening cues … may have been a factor contributing to survival in ancient times," the study says. "As men were more involved in hunting and territory fights, it would have been important for them to be able to predict and foresee the intentions and actions of their male rivals."

Report an error Editorial code of conduct Licensing Options
As of December 20, 2017, we have temporarily removed commenting from our articles. We hope to have this resolved by the end of January 2018. Thank you for your patience. If you are looking to give feedback on our new site, please send it along to If you want to write a letter to the editor, please forward to