Human Males Appear More Prepared Than Females to Resolve Conflicts with Same-Sex Peers

Abstract

The aim of the study was to investigate sex differences in proximate mechanisms that precede the termination of conflicts. In Study 1, we asked women and men to report their intensity of anger in response to hypothetical, common transgressions involving a same-sex roommate. Direct verbal and physical aggression elicited the highest-intensity anger for both sexes, although overall women reported more intense anger than men to all transgressions. In Study 2, we examined sex differences in subjective and physiological reactions to a conflict using a role-playing scenario. Following recall of a conflict involving direct aggression and role-playing a reaction to it, compared with men, women reported their anger would dissipate less quickly and they would take longer to reconcile. Women also exhibited increased heart rate, but little change in cortisol, whereas men exhibited little change in heart rate but increased cortisol production. We interpret the results as indicating that women are less prepared than men to resolve a conflict with a same-sex peer.

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Acknowledgments

The authors thank Emmanuel College, Harvard University, and the University of New Mexico for support of this project.

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Correspondence to Joyce F. Benenson.

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Benenson, J.F., Kuhn, M.N., Ryan, P.J. et al. Human Males Appear More Prepared Than Females to Resolve Conflicts with Same-Sex Peers. Hum Nat 25, 251–268 (2014). https://doi.org/10.1007/s12110-014-9198-z

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Keywords

  • Conflict resolution
  • Reconciliation
  • Humans
  • Sex differences
  • Cortisol
  • Heart rate
  • Subjective anger