There are lots of times when figuring out what someone is feeling just by looking at their facial expressions–and doing it fast and accurately–is important, for instance, when on a job interview, asking a supervisor for a raise, giving a speech, pitching a potential client, making new friends, practicing your stand-up comedy routine, haggling over a price, bringing up a touchy subject and figuring out if someone is attracted to you.
That’s because when you can assess how someone is feeling by the way they look, you can determine if what you’re saying and how you’re saying it is working, when it’s not and when to make quick adjustments to get a better outcome.
So you should know that how fast and accurately you read someone’s emotions from their facial expressions changes throughout your menstrual cycle. And, it’s impacted by whether or not you experience premenstrual syndrome (PMS).
That’s the word from a study from the Max Planck Institute for Human Cognitive and Brain Sciences in Germany. Researchers there reported these two key findings:
1. During Week 2 of your monthly cycle (the week leading up and including ovulation), high estrogen sharpens your ability to read emotions from facial expressions, making you faster and more precise at figuring out what someone is feeling just by looking at them.
2. During your premenstrual Week 4 (the six days prior to your period), plunging estrogen worsens your ability to accurate interpret someone’s facial expressions. Generally, you’re more likely to mistake someone’s neutral facial expressions as negative, other research has shown.
In addition, the German researchers found that during your premenstrual week, it takes you more time to figure out what someone is feeling. However, if you experience PMS, you’re actually slightly faster than women without this condition at assessing facial expression–yet, still just as inaccurate–suggesting that you’re likely to jump to a negative conclusion more quickly possibly because you expect it due to a down premenstrual mood.
So, what’s the takeaway here?
When reading someone’s face to gauge their emotional temperature, keep in mind where you are in your monthly cycle:
If you’re in the first half, go with your gut because your high estrogen is making you more likely to be correct.
If you’re in the second half and you’re getting a negative vibe, remember that your plummeting hormones are making you less accurate and, if you have PMS, more likely to jump the gun and assume the worst.
[Photo: Sharyn Morrow]