New research indicates that women are generally more thorough when expressing emotions and articulating their presenting their problems in therapy. A new study of 18 men and 18 women, carried out by the University of Montreal department of Psychology, used the “Grille de l’Élaboration Verbale des Affects” (GEVA, or verbal elaboration chart) to measure verbal communication and emotional expression. It found that women (and French-speaking Canadians) were more apt to use metaphors, identify childhood traumas as causes of their emotional problems, and verbalize anger rather than acting it out.
Serge Lecour, the study’s author, also sees the GEVA as a potential tool for predicting the presence of personality constellations, success in therapy, and potential for aggression. The GEVA scale has five levels and it factors in four distinct ways of expressing emotion:
For example, someone who is aggressive will be a “Motor 1” while a “Verbal 5” will rationally examine his or her emotions and potentially connect them to childhood experiences, and a ‘Psychosomatic 1,” is likely to have a panic attack, while “imagery” users are able to think abstractly and metaphorically (“I saw blue, I saw red.”).
Researchers have long observed differences in how men and women verbalize differently, but according to Lecours, these findings have unprecedented implications. “Until now, most studies limited themselves to measuring the ability to articulate emotions,” explains Lecours, who published his findings in the Bulletin of the Meninger Clinic. “Thanks to the GEVA test, our study takes it a step further by looking at how we talk or speak.”
The GEVA may eventually be available to the public, but for now these initial findings indicate that men and women–and cultural subgroups–seem to have quite different means of self-expression and introspection. Therapists can begin to examine how to tailor interventions and expectations to account for these differences.
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