Tuesday, May 18, 2010

More Evidence That Sisterhood Is Powerful?

"Sometimes I wonder if men and women really suit each other. Perhaps they should live next door and just visit now and then."
~ Katharine Hepburn

In its April 2010 issue, Scientific American described a recent UCLA study about the ways men and women respond to stress. We've all heard a lot about the "fight or flight" stress response, but researcher and psychologist Mara Mather says that instinct doesn't apply so neatly to women. As Scientific American put it, "Men get antisocial under pressure, but women tend to react in the opposite way: they 'tend and befriend'."

In conducting the study, which you can read about here, researchers immersed people's hands in either icy or warm water — this apparently causes the stress hormone cortisol to spike. They then placed their male and female subjects in what I presume was an fMRI brain scanner and studied their reactions to photographs of faces. (Scientists have been able to study the part of the brain that responds to faces for a while now.)

The researchers found that men's empathetic response and interest in faces diminished under stress, indicating withdrawal. Meanwhile, when women's cortisol levels shot up, they worked hard to read facial expressions and empathize. And this, they say, is evidence of women's tendency to tend and friend.

What do you think: valuable insight or scientific over-reach?

"One good reason to only maintain a small circle of friends is that three out of four murders are committed by people who know the victim."
~ George Carlin

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