Empathy and Stress - Women Are the Stronger Sex

Posted on April 22, 2014

Oxytocin is important in relationship building, pair bonding, and maternal behaviors. In one study, under stressful conditions, women had higher levels of oxytocin than men.

I learned many of life's great lessons while watching Audrey Hepburn movies with my grandmother. To this day, I cannot hear the word "empathy" without being reminded of the first time I heard that word in the movie Funny Face. Empathy is difficult to study, owing to its many dimensions and facets, but it is essential to human interaction. And new evidence suggests that women may be better at it than men.

In the movie, Audrey Hepburn plays Jo, a shy bookkeeper who wants to spend her days studying the theories of empathicalism. When Fred Astaire (as Dick Avery) asks her about her philosophy, she explains: "Sympathy is to understand what someone feels; empathy is to project your imagination so that you can actually feel what the other person is feeling; you put yourself in the other person's place."

Recently, researchers examined empathy in males and females under stressful conditions. When the men were stressed, they were less able to engage in socially appropriate and empathetic interactions with other people; men became more egocentric when stressed. Women, on the other hand, were more empathetic toward others when they themselves were under stress.

The fact that women were more empathetic when stressed might be explained in two ways (though neither theory has been proven). First, women may have a keen understanding that the better they interact with other people, the more external support they receive. Therefore, women are more likely to expend emotional energy when interacting with other people and apply appropriate social strategies, even when they are stressed - something akin to catching more flies with honey than with vinegar.

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Source material from Brain Blogger