Thursday, January 19, 2006

Shocking Differences between Men and Women

How do you feel when you see somebody cheating?

What goes through your head when a perfectly mobile person parks in a handicapped spot? Do you yell in vain at cars that speed through red lights? Have you gotten angry while waiting behind a 20-item shopper in the 15-item-limit express lane at the grocery store?

Most of us don’t like people who cut corners. Even if we succumb to temptation ourselves and occasionally take the easy way out, we still hate it when others cheat.

But many of us like it—and some of us really, really like it—when those cheaters suffer for their crimes. And most of that “many of us,” it turns out, are MALE.

A new study in the journal Nature studied brain reactions to punishment of cheaters, concluding that women empathize with crooks who receive electric shocks … while men tend to enjoy seeing these bad eggs get cooked.

The study focuses on the feeling the Germans call “schadenfreude,” the enjoyment of another’s misfortune—and, incidentally, the longest German word yet to appear on this blog.

In an experimental game setting, both men’s and women’s brains showed activity in pain-related areas when “fair” players received mild electric jolts. But men’s brains—unlike those of the ladies—showed no such reaction for shocked cheaters. And the males, but not the females, had spikes of activity in their brains’ “reward” area when watching the writhing recreants.

You might think that these results would lead the researchers to speculate whether the difference is due to biology or the sex roles learned in society—and if the results would differ if there were financial or psychological punishments instead of physical ones.

Women familiar with the experiment, however, were asking:

1. Are those cheaters feeling better now--will they be OK?

2. Do they need me to make them some soup?

3. Oh my Gawd ... look at that woman over there—you know, the size 10 in the size 8 dress—can you believe she actually wore those hideous shoes?!?

Meanwhile, men were overheard saying:

1. When do I get to press that button myself?

2. How do we crank that shock higher? Higher, HIGHER!!!

3. I need to go on a quick beer run … can I take this thingee with me to the grocery store express lane?


At January 20, 2006 7:28 AM, Blogger siren replied to my musings ...

The study sounds fairly accurate. I have a "mild" case of road rage and have wished horrible things for other drivers; if it actually happened, I would feel somewhat remorseful.

At January 20, 2006 8:39 AM, Blogger Steph replied to my musings ...

I blame my inner bitch. She can be downright NASTY sometimes.

At January 20, 2006 9:30 AM, Blogger Dear Jane replied to my musings ...

ok, now I am convinced I really do have a male brain...I would fry the bad drivers, but the cheaters? ...well, as long as it wasn't somebody cheating on me...

At January 20, 2006 11:22 AM, Blogger Ben Heller replied to my musings ...

Isn't it true that all of the U.S states that have a female Governer don't carry the Death Penalty ?

Coincidence ?

At January 20, 2006 11:30 AM, Blogger David Amulet replied to my musings ...

So one out of three females agree with the findings. I guess the small sample size of the study really did skew the results ... or I just get a disproportionate amount of aggressive women at this site!

Ben: Inspired by your picutre of Nigel Tufnel, I have to ask: hasn't the number of U.S. states with female governors goen up to 11?

-- david

At January 20, 2006 1:00 PM, Blogger Sar replied to my musings ...

David - I saw this article too. You really made a funny post of it - kudos!

At January 20, 2006 1:04 PM, Blogger cube replied to my musings ...

This study sounds like another load of crap. What did they do, poll a bunch of liberal earth-mother types? Ask a few Republican women & you'll get some rational answers.

At January 20, 2006 2:53 PM, Blogger Jim replied to my musings ...

I'm also fond of the mother who gets in the check out line ahead of you and then sends her multiple children to find essentially another cart load of items, none of which little Elvis can find of course so we all just stand there waiting for the little toad to reappear.

At January 20, 2006 4:28 PM, Blogger Laurie replied to my musings ...

A recent episode of Boston Legal showed Alan Shore using
"schadenfreude" in his defense argument - it was the episode with Heather Locklear, and he won the case.

At January 20, 2006 4:48 PM, Blogger The Phoenix replied to my musings ...

I would generalize and say that men do like to inflict physical pain as revenge, while women tend to inflict more emotional and psychological agony.

A shock goes away, as does a bruise or a bloody nose.

Emotional scars are forever.

At January 20, 2006 6:24 PM, Blogger Andy replied to my musings ...

This reminds me of a song I was listening to today. "Psycho Joe" by Blues Travler, the most relevant part:

So satisfying I would be lying
If I didn't want to hear the plea
And so we gather round Psycho Joe
The quiet loners always blow
Strap him in the chair
And killing bad guys is such fun
Too bad we only captured one
Are there any more out there

At January 21, 2006 12:17 AM, Blogger Jamie Dawn replied to my musings ...

I tend to be very empathetic towards people, but once I know that someone is evil (child molesters, rapists, sadisitic people), then I lose all empathy whatsoever.
If I had my way, people who do hideous crimes would not be allowed to live anymore. I believe they gave up their right to life when they did terrible things.
Now, seeing a thief shocked would be different. I would feel sorry for the person. But if he stole something precious of mine, I'd be saying, "Let me at that button!"

At January 21, 2006 1:49 AM, Blogger Laurie replied to my musings ...

You know, I have to write a paper this weekend about "something to do with psychology" - I'm going to do it on schadenfreude :-)

Thanks for the idea!

At January 21, 2006 9:59 AM, Blogger Metal Mark replied to my musings ...

I would be forgiving, I think. There is a moment of rage that happens at times, but it's normally a moment and then it passes and I am all cheery again.

At January 21, 2006 10:35 AM, Blogger Ben Heller replied to my musings ...


Didn't I tell you that "tap" is my favourite movie of all time.

Believe it or not, but I actually am a fan of the music too.

At January 21, 2006 2:51 PM, Blogger :P fuzzbox replied to my musings ...

After practicing the pronunciation, I intend to make 'schadenfreude' my catch phrase of the week.

At January 21, 2006 4:43 PM, Blogger ticharu replied to my musings ...

That was a SHOCKING article!

At January 21, 2006 11:38 PM, Blogger RT replied to my musings ...

Mmm... I think it would depend on the offense and why they committed it. Simple human error (like when driving) is no biggie, and I would probably empathize. But now, a capable person parking in a handicap zone, or someone taking 20 items through the 12 item check-out? I say fry their asses!

At January 23, 2006 1:08 PM, Blogger Dirk the Feeble replied to my musings ...

I wouldn't even feel bad for the fair players that got shocked. Does that make me a terrible human being, or only a mostly terrible human being?

At January 23, 2006 11:00 PM, Blogger The Phoenix replied to my musings ...

Reminds of that Simpsons episode where they were shocking the crap out of each other - even before the experiment began.

At January 24, 2006 5:11 AM, Blogger An80sNut replied to my musings ...

Great topic and yes, I admit that I love seeing someone get what they deserve. I don't run through red lights, I hold doors open for people and I usually make room for cars coming out of parking lots. But, I keep hoping to hear sirens when some J/O runs a red light. If I was in a particularly foul mood, I'd even wish to have that little button to blow out their tires. B) But usually, I just chalk it up to another person using even less than the 10% of their brain everyone else does.

At January 24, 2006 8:15 AM, Blogger Jenn replied to my musings ...

You mean we have differences! Had I known this before I might be married today! :P

KARMA! Yes, I too like when someone gets what they deserve.

Great post!

At January 25, 2006 1:47 AM, Blogger Jim replied to my musings ...

the published study failed to mention the three participants who hooked the electrodes to themselves and then pressed the button, and again, and again

At January 25, 2006 7:16 AM, Blogger David Amulet replied to my musings ...

Yes--and I think their names were Andy, Armaedes, and Jane!

-- david

At January 30, 2006 9:42 PM, Blogger jay lassiter replied to my musings ...

(Ha! now i have the longest german word on your blog!)

At January 31, 2006 9:13 AM, Blogger David Amulet replied to my musings ...

Damn you, Jay! Now I'll have to find another one of those monstrously long and unwieldy German words to try to best you!

-- david


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