Behavior Research and Therapy: Women react faster and stronger to negative impulses, study finds

May 20, 2024  13:27

Psychologists at North Dakota State University have studied the influence of negative and positive emotional impulses on the condition of men and women. The study was published in the scientific journal Behavior Research and Therapy.

The team wanted to find out why people often respond more strongly to various threats than to rewards.

The researchers conducted a series of three experiments involving 375 people to study how people perceive positive and negative (aversive) stimuli.

Each volunteer was placed in a separate room with a personal computer, on the screen of which different images were displayed. Some of them—such as happy people, children playing—were pleasant, while others—such as car accidents, smelly food—caused negative feelings.

Participants used a vertical rating line displayed on a computer screen to indicate their emotional state. At one end of the scale was written "Very unpleasant," at the other—"Very pleasant," and in the middle—"Basic feelings."

It was found that the participants reacted faster to the aversive images than to the pleasant ones. This rapid onset of negative responses supports the evolutionary theory that humans are programmed to detect and respond to potential threats, which is critical to survival.

An important finding was the difference in the power and speed of perception of negative images between men and women. The latter reacted faster and stronger to unpleasant content. This corresponds to a higher prevalence of anxiety disorders and fear-related disorders among women.

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