Under stress, men and women have different brain activation patterns. Stress causes men and women to respond differently to risky decision making, with men charging ahead for small rewards and women taking their time, according to a new study in Social Cognitive and Affective Neuroscience, published by Oxford University Press on June 4th, 2011.

After being subjected to stress, men appeared to be more motivated to act quickly while women slow down.

According to the study, when men are under stress, playing a risk-taking game stimulated areas in the brain that are activated when one gets a reward or satisfies an addiction. The same experiment found diminished brain activity for women in the same areas when they were stressed. It appears women do not feel the drive to get a reward as much under stress. So under stress men are risk-takers, while women are risk-adverse.

This compelling information has many ramifications when it comes to making life decisions with a partner or spouse on matters of importance to the wellbeing of the partnership.

While there might be advantages to both stress responses, especially in areas with the need to weigh short-term gain, such as the stock market, and long-term benefits, such as health decisions or retirement planning, there are many implications for daily life and relationships.

For example, it would not be wise for a man to invest the couple’s life savings on the stock market if he is under duress. Similarly a woman with a life-threatening illness might have to speed up her decision-making process if the disease is progressing rapidly with time.


In the study participants were given a task of filling up a computer-simulated balloon with as much air as possible without popping the balloon.

Subjects earned from $4 to $45 based on their performance, with the men earning much more cash under stress.

Although men performed this task better, the more important conclusion may be that important decisions made under stress should include input from both genders. It might be better to have more gender diversity on important decision because men and women offer differing perspectives. Being more cautious and taking the time to make a decision will often lead to the right choice.

Men and women faced with tough decisions might improve their communication by waiting until a stressful situation has passed because in the absence of stress their behaviour and brain activation is more compatible.

According to lead author on the study Nichole Lighthall, "Men and women appear to think more similarly when they are not stressed. Each party in a couple needs to be aware of the way they are biased in their decisions especially when under stress."

Last year Lighthall authored a study in the journal PLoS One that showed that men under stress may be more likely to take risks, correlating to such real-life behavior as gambling, smoking, unsafe sex and illegal drug use.

Gender differences in brain structure and response to environmental stimuli mean that men and women respond to the world from a very different world-view. Other areas of gender differentiation come into play in the bedroom, social behaviour, attitudes to work and health and in the area of parenting.


In our Essence of Woman Relationships Workshop we explore how to navigate the rocky waters of gender difference so that you can enjoy complementary harmony in your relationship in the way that Nature intended.


If you are interested in learning more about how gender differences shape your relationship and how by understanding them you can bring compatibility into your sexual life, your workplace, your parenting and your extended family life in concert with your partner, click here to go to our Spirit of Woman website where you can view the details of our July 30th and 31st workshop and to book online. Simply scroll down to the Essence of Relationships workshop and you can click through to book.


If you find that you view your spouse or partner as if you are looking in the mirror, expecting the same responses and behaviours from him as you have,  and yet somehow  he 'lets you down every time', then this workshop will delight, comfort, empower and lift you and your your relationship up to where it belongs – to harmony, joy, balance and inner peace.


You can then return here to read more blogs about how gender differences can either make our lives hell or take us to heaven……..




ZoomInto: Pictures, Images and Photos
Share →

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.