Just recently, researchers have found that men can spot a woman very quickly. Men are slightly faster than women at spotting a woman. It takes men just 800 milliseconds to notice whether someone is a woman or not. It takes women 900 milliseconds. Congratulations, men!
Unfortunately, that is the only good news. When shown pictures of a crying woman, men have trouble telling whether she is happy or sad. To make sure that it was actually men’s brains that were giving them so much trouble, they did some MRIs of men’s brains while the men looked at pictures of women’s faces.
Sure enough, not much was happening-at least not enough was happening. Shown a picture of a happy woman, many men’s brains showed little activity, and then often only in the baseball scores parts of their brains.
With faces of men, men and women scored about equal when guessing the correct emotion expressed on men’s faces. However, men scored better at spotting anger in the faces of other men.
Evolutionary biologists reason that this special anger-spotting skill in men could have been very useful eons ago when they were hunter-gatherers. For instance, when my brother-in-law Dennis dropped my 20-inch brookie that he just had to see-even though we were standing in the middle of the stream and I had just put the fish into my creel minutes ago, it was good that he could tell from the look on my face-in a mere 700 milliseconds-that I was angry. I am sure that fish was a state record.
About 600 milliseconds later, with my fish swimming away, I tried to whack him with my fishing pole. However, he had anticipated the whack by about 100 milliseconds. While the rod missed him, my spinner caught on the handle of his landing net that he had hooked to his belt.
When I reached to free the spinner from the handle, he thought I was trying to strangle him. I said later that I slipped when stepping toward him and that it only appeared like my hand was headed toward his throat. Anyway, that’s when he starting plunging downstream as fast as he could.
I set the hook on him, but my drag setting was pretty loose because I was only using a five-pound test. So, even though I tried to reel him in, the line kept playing out. I stumbled downstream after him, keeping the line taut and steering him away from snags, but he was too clever.
My line did catch on a snag and shortly thereafter, the line went slack. Until that moment, I did not realize that the loop on the end of his landing net was made of elastic. The elastic band was tied to his belt. When my line got hung up in the snag, his net tried to stay with my spinner in the snag. This made the elastic band draw out to its full length.
When the line broke, the elastic quickly pulled his landing net back toward the seat of his pants with the force of a good five-pound whack. When he recovered from being whacked by his landing net, he looked back at me and within a few hundred milliseconds knew that I was much amused. A half-second later, he was plunging through the water toward me, wearing what I could plainly see was a very angry face.
Thinking I should try to resolve this escalating conflict, I said, “That one’s for eating the last of the Oreos without telling me!” Then I took off upstream.
That is how I reckon men evolved their special skills of communicating through scowls and grimaces.
Rhinelander District Library director Ed Hughes is avilable at (715) 365-1070.