Men enjoy physical revenge more than women
A study shows that men get satisfied from seeing revenge physically exacted on someone perceived to have wronged them.Updated: Jan 21, 2006 09:40 IST
A new study has shown that men get a much bigger kick than women from seeing revenge physically exacted on someone perceived to have wronged them.
Scans of brain activity suggest that men experience greater satisfaction than women in seeing cheaters get their due , at least when the punishment is physical.
Tania Singer of University College London and colleagues used a functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) machine to analyse the brain activity of 32 volunteers after their participation in a simple game, called the Prisoner's Dilemma.
The game allows players to cooperate or double-cross one another, and so fosters camaraderie or enmity between players. Following the game, participants were placed inside an fMRI machine and then saw their fellow players zapped with electricity. The activity in their brain was recorded as they watched.
The scans revealed changes in activity as players who had cooperated got zapped, compared with those who had double-crossed them in the game. The results suggest that men get a much bigger kick than women from seeing revenge physically exacted on someone perceived to have wronged them.
"It was very surprising. I didn't expect such a strong difference" Singer told New Scientist.
The scans showed that both sexes experienced increased brain activity in the fronto-singular and anterior cingulate cortices, areas associated with the direct experience of pain - when watching other players receive a jolt of electricity. Researchers have previously shown that so-called mirror neurons will sometimes fire in empathy with another person's experience.
Both men and women also experienced slightly less activity in these areas when cheaters were given a shock, which suggests the feeling of empathy was dependent on social behaviour.
But tellingly, activity dropped much more in men when watching cheaters being buzzed. In addition, several other regions of male participants' brains "lit up" instead - areas linked to the experience of reward known as the ventral striatum/nucleus accumbens and orbito-frontal cortex.
The results suggest that men not only feel less empathy for cheaters but experience pleasure when they are punished.
First Published: Jan 21, 2006 09:40 IST