Speed Reads

Whatever You Say

Study: Stress makes men more selfish, women more social


Generally, people assume that stress makes us more anxious and thus, less sympathetic and patient towards others. A new study found that was true — but only for men.

Researchers at the University of Vienna hypothesized that "stressed individuals tend to become more egocentric." Their findings however, showed that for women, "the exact opposite is true," and that stress actually makes women more "prosocial."

During the experiments, subjects had to perform stress-inducing tasks, such as complex math problems or public speaking, and then judge others' emotions and perspectives. "What we observed was that stress worsens the performance of men in all three types of tasks," said researcher Giorgia Silani. "The opposite is true for women."

While the reasons behind the results are still unclear, Silani posits the explanation that "women may have internalized the experience that they receive more external support when they are able to interact better with others. This means that the more they need help — and are thus stressed — the more they apply social strategies." Whatever the scientific explanation, the study's findings will undoubtedly provide for some great punch lines.