"Apparently men also show social approach behavior as a direct consequence of stress," study researcher Bernadette von Dawans, of the University of Freiburg in Germany, said in a statement.
Traditionally, researchers have assumed that humans and most animal species show the "fight-or-flight" response to stress. Only since the late 1990s have some scientists begun to argue that women show an alternate "tend-and-befriend" response to stress — in which they become more protective (they "tend" to others) and offer their friendship (they "befriend" others).
Men, in contrast, were still assumed to become aggressive under stress. The new study was published May 16 in the journal Psychological Science.
The researchers used a standardized procedure for inducing stress in groups via public speaking. The researchers examined the implications of this stressor for social behavior using specially designed social interaction games. These games allowed them to measure positive social behavior — for example, trust or sharing — and negative social behavior — for example, punishment.