Do you all agree with this article?
It's more productive here to provide the reference to the original Nature article rather than just some news magazine's interpretation of it, especially since the magazine article makes it very difficult to locate it just by following their link.
Nature 439, 466-469 (26 January 2006) | doi:10.1038/nature04271
Empathic neural responses are modulated by the perceived fairness of others
Tania Singer1,2, Ben Seymour1, John P. O'Doherty3, Klaas E. Stephan1, Raymond J. Dolan1 and Chris D. Frith1
It's all interesting enough, and the areas of brain activation correlate well to the volunteer's responses on questionnaire's, indicating the regions being measured are likely to be relevant to the responses. Of course, these types of studies are somewhat unsatisfying in that they don't tell us anything about why the men and women differ in their responses.
One thing I wish had been included in the supplemental figures in the Nature article that wasn't was a comparison of how the male and female volunteers responded to male vs female players. They should have this data because they counterbalanced the study appropriately to control for gender differences in subjects and confederates, and I'd be really curious to know if there are any differences in empathy shown FOR women vs men, as opposed to BY women vs men.
Another thing that would be useful to know, but was not determined, is whether there were any differences between the sexes of subjects in how they perceived the game. What I mean is, is it possible that because this is all done in a lab where everyone knows they are part of an experiment, do the women more readily realize it was just a game, and the "unfair" player was just playing a role and isn't necessarily an unfair person than the men do? In the supplemental results provided, there was a pretty clear difference between men and women in the category of "deserved pain" when rating the "unfair" players, which is being interpreted as part of a desire for revenge, but what if women would equally desire revenge if this were a real-life situation, but in a lab setting, are able to recognize that this person is really just role-playing and thus remain empathetic, while the men are more prone to not distinguishing role-playing from reality? (Think about gender differences in people who play role-playing games; what if this is getting more at the reason why such games are more stimulating to more men than to as many women?) But, that STILL leaves wide open the question of WHY.
The first thing that comes to mind for me is competition. Men tend to take competition far more seriously then women. The desire for revenge here comes from playing a game. Every other object of revenge referenced in the article seems to involve competition in one for or another. War for most men is just another form of competition. In fact most games (board games and video games) that men play are based on war and battle. Even role playing games tend to be based more on these sorts of thing. As for your curiosity regarding taking role playing for reality and popularity of RPGs with males you may be interested to know that those RPGs that are based more on elements of politics, intregue, acting and over all just getting into characters' heads attract FAR more women than D&D and the like. Torture... men would tend more than likely to take this as doing what needs to be done to "win". In regards to criminals and the death penalty this could easily tie in with a view of "the game" of life. Those who break the rules of "the game" ought to be punished. Someone being punished for breaking the rules is likely seen as a small victory. Even though the man who sees it as such may himself be someone who "cheats" at "the game" it still means a draw back for "the competition". "He was caught and I wasn't so I must be playing the game better."
It would be interesting to see results for a similar experiment which does not involve any sort of competition.
IMO, people are socialized to learn the acceptability of vengeance or revenge, which are only acceptable to an undeveloped mind.
I don't believe women are less vengefull at all. Direct physical violence just isn't their prefered method. A follow up study could be done. If instead of physical pain the "unfair" players are seen to have to endure some frustration or emotional displeasure, I think you might find more of the women's "rewards" centers lighting up.
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