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Research recurrently shows that females perform better than males on various mindreading tasks. The present study contributes to this growing body of literature by being the first to demonstrate a female own-gender mindreading bias using a naturalistic social cognition paradigm including Seeking an understanding woman and male targets.

Furthermore, a non-linear negative effect of perceiver age on mindreading performance was examined within a sample covering the age range of 17—70 years, as indicated by a stronger performance decrease setting on by the age of 30 years and continuing throughout middle and old age.

These findings add to a more comprehensive understanding of the contextual factors influencing mindreading performance in typically developing adults. It relies on various visual, verbal and symbolic cues e. Thus, the abilities serving this capacity range from emotion recognition and empathic accuracy to attributing intentions, inferring thoughts, understanding faux pas and false beliefs.

Social psychological research increasingly recognizes the crucial role of contextual factors, e. Research recurrently demonstrates that females perform better on various mindreading tasks such as mindreading accuracy Thomas and Fletcher,mental state inference Kirkland et al. Gender differences in mindreading have been linked to biological sex differences.

Although this is not uncontroversial Valla et al. Connellan et al. This study is the only one demonstrating such early sex differences using these two objects. However, it has also been found that female newborns have a stronger interest in eye contact as compared to male newborns Hittelman and Dickes, These early sex differences are assumed to initiate sex-specific integration of brain systems, which develop as differences in social perception and cognition McGuinness and Pribram, ; Byrd-Craven and Geary, Since this controversy started Ickes et al.

Hodges et al. They further relate it to some specific features of the female standard stimulus person used in these studies, speculating that a female target might appeal stronger to women than to men.

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Unfortunately, this line of research did not consider the possible interaction of perceiver gender and target gender systematically. Face perception is considered as one core mechanism of social cognition since Schultz et al. This basic idea, i. Yet, most of these findings rely upon performance differences between extreme age groups, not continuous age data. Therefore, a comprehensive picture of adult mindreading performance in women and men across the whole adult lifespan is still lacking.

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This hints toward a positive relationship between age and mindreading until mature adulthood, and a negative relationship in old age. In the present study, we examined effects of perceiver gender and age, and target gender on mindreading performance as assessed with an ecologically valid test that captures the broad composite of everyday mindreading targeting multiple characters of both genders. We hypothesized i a perceiver gender effect on mindreading, i.

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The presented data are based on a multi-site data collection comprising 14 studies conducted in Germany e. Only data from typically developing participants were used for the current analyses while individuals with documented clinical diagnosis were excluded. This large and statistically powerful sample of convenience was used with no a priori sample size calculation. No gender difference was present for education duration.

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The studies were approved by the respective local ethics committees, e. Two of the 14 studies included typically developing individuals only and, thus, did not legally require ethics approvals for collecting behavioral data with our measure. In addition, all subjects gave written informed consent in accordance with the Declaration of Helsinki.

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The MASC is an explicit mindreading performance test based on a narrative fictional film providing naturalistic verbal and non-verbal stimuli of dynamic social interaction. It captures affective and cognitive mental state inference, such as Theory of Mind, emotion recognition and perspective taking. It includes four targets who exhibit the full variety of verbal and non-verbal information, and express their emotions, thoughts and intentions in dynamic interaction. The min movie is about two female and two male middle aged adults preparing and getting together for dinner, and focuses on their social communication and interaction.

The response format of the current MASC version is a multiple-choice structure with one correct response and three distractors for each of the 45 questions. Subscores represent the percentage of correctly answered items based on 26 items targeting female characters, and 18 items targeting male characters; one item targets 3 characters at once, and thus Seeking an understanding woman not included. In the original validation study Dziobek et al. For further details with regard to test development, stimuli and administration see Dziobek et al. We assessed the psychometric properties of the MASC based on classical item analysis and confirmatory factor analysis.

To assess the assumption of unidimensionality the confirmatory factor analysis was performed with only one latent factor using the WMSLV estimation method.

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The MASC is widely used in clinical studies as a sensitive test of mindreading deficits in, e. Post hoc within- and between-group comparisons were Bonferroni corrected, and group differences were compared by effect size as measured by partial eta squared. Non-linear relationship between age and mindreading performance for females and males.

Interaction effect of perceiver and target gender on mindreading performance.

Women know better what other women think and feel: gender effects on mindreading across the adult life span

Age covariate is evaluated at the level of This result specifies the understanding of gender effects which have been reported by research showing that women hold an advantage over men across various components of mindreading McClure, ; Thomas and Fletcher, ; Montagne et al. In the present study, women outperformed men particularly when asked to read female targets, whereas no such own-gender bias was found in men.

To the best of our knowledge, this is the first evidence to demonstrate the Seeking an understanding woman female own-gender mindreading bias. First, we assume an equal-mindreaders effect. Additionally, positive relationship outcomes of mindreading and perspective taking, such as greater intimacy and closeness Chow et al. Another developmental explanation is a superior-mindreader effect, which could manifest the female own-gender bias especially during adolescence.

Given that women are better mindreaders than men, adolescents might prefer them for the sake of better self-understanding. Adolescent girls actually self-disclose more with their mother than father, whereas boys share less with their father than mother Rivenbark, This interaction pattern seems to persist beyond adolescence since women generally disclose more than men toward same-gender targets Dindia and Allen, Finally, the female own-gender mindreading bias could be also explained by the fact that women are more stimulating as a target of mindreading.

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They have shown to be more emotionally expressive than men Gross and John,and therefore might provide richer input and a stronger appeal for others to read them. These putative mechanisms should be further examined in future research to better understand why the female own-gender bias exists.

Furthermore, the non-linear negative effect of age on mindreading performance found in the present study extends the existing literature on age and social cognition by providing a more differentiated picture of mindreading across the adult life span. These des were not suited to detect non-linear trajectories across the entire adult life span. Our regression analysis using age-continuous data ranging from 17 to 70 years shows the onset of a negative trajectory by the age of approximately 30 years, and continuation throughout middle and old age.

Their differed as they found an inverted u-shaped trajectory peaking around 50—60 years. However, perspective taking represents only a very specific component of mindreading which, especially when measured via self-report, might be confounded with a prosocial motivation i.

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Prosociality itself increases with age Sze et al. The more objective mindreading test used in the present study is presumably less prone to motivational confounds, and thus, better suited to measure actual performance differences related to age.

Our further complement the literature on social-cognitive aging as they are based on a naturalistic measure assessing the various components of everyday mindreading in a more comprehensive fashion as compared to studies, which for instance focused either on Theory of Mind or emotion labeling. Since we did not use longitudinal data, a cohort effect could have possibly confounded the age effect. In order to explore this we repeated the regression analysis with a MASC total score reduced by seven items which might be biased by specific lack of knowledge or social norms probably present in older participants e.

Thehowever, did not change which indicates genuinely age-related performance differences.

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Nonetheless, it should be replicated with longitudinal data to exclude the possibility of cohort effects. Another limitation of our analysis is the missing inclusion of indicators of general cognitive ability. The negative age effect on mindreading appears to be similar to age-related differences in general cognitive performance Salthouse, However, literature has shown that the negative relationship of age and mindreading is only partly associated with age-related general cognitive impairments such as executive functioning and fluid intelligence Moran, At the same time, the test does not produce ceiling performance effects and is a psychometrically sound measure of the individual differences presented in this study.

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This work contributes to the growing literature on the contextual factors of mindreading such as perceiver and target characteristics. By using a mindreading test that includes female as well as male targets, we demonstrated a specifically female own-gender bias in the ability to understand what others think and feel. The proposed social-cognitive mechanism and developmental factors of this bias have to be examined in following studies.

The negative non-linear age effect on mindreading, marked by age-related performance differences setting on by the age of approximately 30 years, further clarifies how this ability might differ throughout adult life.

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