London: Women have long complained that men often give a blank look which indicates they aren`t at all listening during a heated row. Now a new study has settled the argument -- blokes naturally "switch off" in times of stress.
Researchers have found that men instinctively "tune out" in stressful situations. Their female partners on the other hand may become more "clingy" and seek emotional support during rows creating even greater friction between the sexes.
The study looked at 50 men and women and measured their reaction to faces under controlled conditions.
The researchers found that men who looked at angry faces had diminished brain activity in the area responsible for understanding other people`s emotions. Women on the other hand displayed heightened activity in the same area, British newspaper `The Daily Telegraph` reported.
"These are the first findings to indicate that sex differences in the effects of stress on social behaviour extend to one of the most basic social transactions, processing someone else`s facial expression. Under stress, men tend to withdraw socially while women seek emotional support.
"The study indicates that experiencing acute stress can affect subsequent activity and interactions in brain regions in opposite ways for males and females," Mara Mather of University of Southern California, who led the study, said.
The findings have been published in the latest edition of the `NeuroReport` journal.