Study finds people with negative views of hijab misread happiness as sadness

·2-min read
People with negative feelings towards the hijab are more likely to misread the emotions of women wearing them and see happiness as sadness, a study has indicated (PA) (PA Archive)
People with negative feelings towards the hijab are more likely to misread the emotions of women wearing them and see happiness as sadness, a study has indicated (PA) (PA Archive)

People with negative feelings towards the hijab are more likely to misread the emotions of women wearing them and see happiness as sadness, a study has indicated.

Participants were shown images of eight different women wearing the hijab, whose facial expressions of happiness and sadness had been morphed into five levels of emotional intensity.

A prompt forced them to decide in under a second, moving a cursor to the labels happy or sad – the trajectory of the mouse cursor also tracked any hesitation.

I hope that making the public aware of these biases will allow people to fight against them, and to be less influenced by their misperceptions

Dr Sebastian Korb

After finishing, the 141 participants in Austria and Turkey were then asked about their feelings on the head covering, measuring factors such as levels of acceptance, admiration, and hostility.

In total, 18% of participants in both countries had a slightly negative to very negative view of the hijab.

Those with negative views of the hijab misread happiness as sadness in up to 38% of cases, according to the research by the University of Essex

Researchers said they selected participants in Austria and Turkey as the countries differ in societal acceptance of the hijab.

They noted that Austria is a predominantly Christian country which banned headscarves for girls below the age of 14, while Turkey’s dominant religion is Islam and in recent years the hijab has been allowed in universities, government buildings, schools and the armed forces.

Dr Sebastian Korb, from the Department of Psychology at the University of Essex, said: “These results highlight how our own opinions can have effects that trickle down to such basic skills as our ability to recognise other people’s emotions.

“I hope that making the public aware of these biases will allow people to fight against them, and to be less influenced by their misperceptions.”

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