Study says women and men argue differently
Posted October 13, 2010 at 11:26 pm in News
A study conducted by a professor of gerontology and her team of researchers suggests women are more adept than men at understanding emotional cues under acute stress.
Professor Mara Mather, who is also the director of the Emotion and Cognition Lab at USC, published her study in the Oct. 6 edition of NeuroReport, which provided a biological explanation for the ways men and women differ in reacting to arguments. Women typically complain and seek emotional support in stressful situations, whereas men usually withdraw socially, Mather said.
âOur research is the first to indicate that sex differences in the effects of stress on social behavior directly correlate with a personâs ability to assess someone elseâs facial expression,â Mather said.
When Matherâs research team began the project in fall of 2007, it sought to investigate the effects of stress on cognition, not necessarily the gender differences that emerge under stress, she said.
âIt became apparent that stress has a different effect on the way men and women process social stimuli,â Mather said.
The research team simulated stress in study participants by placing their hands in cold water for 30- and 40-minute intervals then presenting them with various facial expressions.
Under acute stress, Mather said, men had less brain response to facial expressions. They most often struggled to identify fear and anger.
âThe study revealed that, after stress, brain activation response to faces was enhanced in women but diminished in men,â said Nichole Lighthall, Matherâs research assistant and a doctoral student studying gerontology.
Students shared their thoughts on the differences between men and women during confrontation.
âI think men are more confrontational man-to-man but when itâs woman-to-man, I think the man is more submissive and doesnât want the drama,â said Kevin Milkis, a freshman majoring in cinema-television production.
âTypically, women want to talk about things more and men are reserved and stay angry,â said Lauren Howard, a freshman majoring in print and digital journalism.
The studyâs findings are only pieces of fully understanding the behaviors of women and men, Lighthall said.
âIt appears that understanding why men and women have different social and emotional responses to stress is a very complex research question,â Lighthall said. âThis study makes an important contribution to answering it and hopefully our findings will be helpful in guiding future research on the topic.â