Stress worsens empathy in men, not in women

March 19, 2014 11:58 AM

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Stressed men become egocentric, women don’t.

Male individuals under stress tend to be more self-centred and less able to distinguish their own emotions and intentions from those of other people. Women instead are truly empathic and can behave prosocially, a study published in Psychoneuroendocrinology, carried out with the collaboration of SISSA in Trieste, finds. In the experiments, conditions of moderate stress were created in the laboratory. Thereafter, participants (half men, half women) were tasked to imitate movements, tell their own emotions from other people’s one and make a judgment taking on another person’s perspective. Researchers found that stress worsened the performance of men in all three types of tasks, whereas women’s performance was even improved. Reasons for it remain unclear. Women may apply social strategies whenever they need help and are thus stressed.


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