Why women get scared and men don’t: new study
Published 24/08/2011 | 15:40
Men and women differ in the way they anticipate an unpleasant emotional experience, which influences the effectiveness with which that experience is committed to memory, according to new research.
In a study it was found that women get more scared than men during horror films because they are more likely to anticipate the scary scenes that lie ahead.
Thirty men and women had their brain activity measured as they viewed positive and negative pictures, such as nice landscapes and extreme violence. They were given a clue to the picture in advance, such as a smiley face for a positive image and a sad face for a disturbing one.
The participants then underwent a memory test which showed that the anticipation of seeing something bad caused a heightened brain acitivty amongst women but triggered nothing in men.
Dr Giulia Galli, lead author from the UCL Institute of Cognitive Neuroscience said: "When expecting a negative experience, women might have a higher emotional responsiveness than men, indicated by their brain activity. This is likely to then affect how they remember the negative event."
"For example, when watching disturbing scenes in films there are often cues before anything 'bad' happens, such as emotive music. This research suggests that the brain activity in women between the cue and the disturbing scene influences how that scene will be remembered. What matters for memory in men instead is mostly the brain activity while watching the scene.
"This finding might be relevant for psychiatric disorders such as anxiety, in which there is excessive anticipation of future threat and memory is often biased towards negative experiences."