Gender differences in interoceptive accuracy and emotional ability: An explanation for incompatible findings

Author: Freya Prentice1, Hannah Hobson2, Ria Spooner3, Jennifer Murphy3
1 Developmental Neurosciences Programme, UCL Great Ormond Street Institute of Child Health. Electronic address:
2 Department of Psychology, University of York.
3 Department of Psychology, Royal Holloway, University of London.
Conference/Journal: Neurosci Biobehav Rev
Date published: 2022 Aug 3
Other: Special Notes: doi: 10.1016/j.neubiorev.2022.104808. , Word Count: 163

Most theories of emotion describe a crucial role for interoceptive accuracy, the perception of the body's internal physiological signals, in emotional experience. Despite support for interoceptive accuracy's role in emotion, findings of gender differences in emotional and interoceptive processing are incompatible with theory; women typically show poorer interoceptive accuracy, but women often outperform men on measures of emotional processing and recognition. This suggests a need to re-evaluate the relationship between interoceptive accuracy and emotion considering sex and gender. Here we extend Pennebaker and Roberts' (1992) theory of gender differences in the use of interoceptive signals for emotional experience, proposing that language socialisation may result in gender differences in the propensity to label internal state changes as physiological or emotional, respectively. Despite outstanding questions concerning the fractionation of interoceptive and emotional domains, this theory provides a plausible explanation for seemingly incompatible findings of gender differences in interoceptive and emotional abilities.

Keywords: Emotion; Emotion Recognition; Gender differences; Interoception; Interoceptive accuracy; Sex differences.

PMID: 35932952 DOI: 10.1016/j.neubiorev.2022.104808