Stress make women social and men antisocial

Apr 23, 2010 by Lin Edwards report

(PhysOrg.com) -- New studies by scientists at the University of Southern California have found that while stress may result in a universal physiological "fight or flight response" there are gender differences in psychological and behavioral responses. The new findings suggest stress makes women more social and more aware of facial expressions, while it tends to make men less social.

The research led by psychologist Mara Mather, lends support to the theory proposed by Shelley Taylor, a neuroscientist from the University of California, Los Angeles, that women faced with “tend and befriend” by and nurturing, probably as a way to protect their children, and that the fight or flight psychological and behavioral responses apply mainly to .

In the experiments, Mather and her team split their male and female subjects into two groups. One group was put under stress by being asked to hold one hand in ice water for three minutes, which caused an elevation in the level of the stress hormone cortisol that lasted for about an hour. The other group held their hands in comfortably warm water, which does not elevate cortisol levels. The subjects were then shown pictures of neutral or angry faces while they were lying inside a brain scanner.

The results showed striking gender differences in the brain scans. The men with high cortisol levels showed less in the fusiform face area (FFA), an area of the brain involved in processing images of faces, than unstressed men did, while the stressed women’s brains were more active in that area than in unstressed women. There were similar differences in the regions of the brain concerned with understanding other people’s emotions and states of mind, and in feeling empathy towards others, with the stressed men showing reduced activity and a disconnection between the regions, and the stressed women showing an increased activity and greater connectivity.

Mather said tend to seek out, befriend and bond with other people when they are under threat or stress, whereas men generally do not. She said the women's enhanced abilities to gauge and respond to them could partly underlie their tend and befriend reaction to stressful situations.

The group’s findings were presented at the 17th annual meeting of the Cognitive Neuroscience Society (CNS) held between 17 and 20 April 2010 in Montreal, Canada.

Explore further: Family 'disconnect' drives young Singaporeans to suicide: charity

More information: Shelley E. Taylor's lab page: taylorlab.psych.ucla.edu/index.htm

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User comments : 13

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SincerelyTwo
2.2 / 5 (13) Apr 23, 2010

Women don't know how to deal with shit, so they look for guys who will pick it up for them.

Guys know how to deal with shit, and are focused on accomplishing the necessary tasks to relieve the objecting creating the pressure causing the stress.

Makes sense. /waits-for-female-wrath
magnetosome
1 / 5 (7) Apr 23, 2010
This is the contradictory to what I've observed among different groups of people in real life.

Perhaps PhysOrg should stick to reporting on science rather than social commentary and lame attempts at reinforcing gender stereotypes.
deatopmg
1 / 5 (8) Apr 23, 2010
@SincerelyTwo - your male response is the "fight" one but the more common response today, especially in our socially engineered, feminized men, is the "flight" response, i.e. withdrawal, running away.

AND women are MUCH BETTER handling shit than men are. They rely on their men to handle the shit then, when we don't they handle it themselves.
deatopmg
1.8 / 5 (8) Apr 23, 2010
@SincerelyTwo - your male response is the "fight" one but the more common response today, especially in our socially engineered, feminized men, is the "flight" response, i.e. withdrawal, running away.

AND women are MUCH BETTER handling shit than men are. They rely on their men to handle the shit then, when we don't they handle it themselves.

@magnetosome - the gender stereotypes like all stereotypes, though stretched to the extreme, are based on fact. This study is not social commentary but observation of behaviour. There ARE definite and obvious gender differences with more or less overlap in innate behaviours in a large population but the differences will remain no matter how much social engineering the left attempts.
magnetosome
2.4 / 5 (5) Apr 23, 2010
@deatopmg and @SincerelyTwo - it's troubling that you believe this still.
ironjustice
3 / 5 (6) Apr 23, 2010
It makes sense. In the animal kingdom if push comes to shove it is the male that kicks ass best and man should not be as 'well equipped' as a woman to deal with 'stress' **in the same manner** as a woman. In the real world / animal kingdom the ability to **react** TO a 'stress' is an ability to cultivated and in the animal kingdom it is NOT smart to 'err on the side of caution' as opposed to 'shoot now ask questions later'.
Imho ..
JayK
2.6 / 5 (7) Apr 23, 2010
Natural world: get between a female moose and a calf then tell me that the male "kicks ass" best.

The machismo in this thread is abundantly evident. The science, not so much.
frajo
3.5 / 5 (6) Apr 23, 2010
In the animal kingdom if push comes to shove it is the male that kicks ass best
Are you sure?
Yours sincerely, mantis religiosa.
ironjustice
2.4 / 5 (5) Apr 23, 2010
Natural world: get between a female moose and a calf then tell me that the male "kicks ass" best.

The machismo in this thread is abundantly evident. The science, not so much.

Wouldn't there be a difference between a moose and a lion. A moose isn't very 'social' ? He pretty much leaves after conception unlike other animals such as a lion ?
Therefore the female moose may be different from a lioness in her initial reaction ?
JayK
2.8 / 5 (8) Apr 23, 2010
It is a single example of how the sex of a species isn't indicative of its capability to "kick ass". There are plenty of examples in both directions that it isn't useful to talk about males vs. females, rather that the response to stress is for both to withdraw from society. This is more of an awareness study that might benefit many of the cognitive sciences.

Really I just think the machismo in this thread is woefully misplaced and unneeded.
rincewind
3 / 5 (2) Apr 23, 2010
The study bases its inference on brain pattern activity as it correlates with functional areas (e.g. face recognition and social attention). The knee-jerk reactions in this comment thread completely ignore the science. Good times
SincerelyTwo
3 / 5 (3) Apr 23, 2010
Haha, well, shit. I was laughing my ass off while writing that because I thought it was a hilarious joke, but now I read it sober and realize it doesn't sound like a joke at all. Jokes really are honest, damn.
dsl5000
2.3 / 5 (3) Apr 25, 2010
haha sounds like social science is trying to explain why when us guys get lost while driving we tend not to seek for help :P

Than again this "stress" they speak of is very broad. I'd say it depends on the situation. I would also say it might not be so much Male/Female reaction necessarily because the confounding factor is culture. The way a male/female are brought up is different. As such, different brain activity may be due to specified learned reaction taught by culture.

It's in many cultures imo. Men are raised and taught to be self-sufficient, to provide for the family. Then it's shrouded as the 'Man pride', 'ego' whatever you want to call it :)

If they were to test this they should test it on neonatals with the least impact by culture.