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Women cope with pressure better than men, finds study

When the going gets tough, women are better at staying calm and collected

Sabrina Barr
Monday 04 December 2017 10:41 GMT
(AFP/Getty Images)

When faced with a stressful situation, we all react in different ways.

However, when the going gets tough, it seems that women are better at keeping their cool than men.

According to a study that compared the performances of elite male and female tennis players, men were more likely to buckle under pressure during tense match moments.

Researchers from the Ben Gurion University of the Negev, the University of St.Gallen and NYU shanghai analysed over 8,000 men’s and women’s tennis matches.

They discovered that while the male players made more unforced errors at pivotal points during their matches, the women’s responses varied more.

“Based on our analysis of 8,280 men’s and women’s tennis games we find that men consistently choke under competitive pressure, but with regard to women the results are mixed,” the study concluded.

“Furthermore, we find that even if women show a drop in performance in the more crucial stages of the match, it is still about 50 per cent smaller than that of men.”

However, it is important to note that the study solely focussed on men’s and women’s abilities to handle pressure in a competitive sporting environment.

Dr. Alex Krumer, researcher from the University of St.Gallen, discussed the study’s findings with the Harvard Business Review in a recent interview.

“We looked at the performance of servers - who normally have an advantage - in every first set played at the 2010 French, U.S., and Australian Opens and at Wimbledon, and we found that the men’s performance deteriorated more than the women’s when the game was at a critical juncture.”

Even though the study may have only focussed on comparing men and women in the tennis world, Dr. Krumer argued that the results could correspond to other sectors of daily life as well.

“If you look at the literature on cortisol, the stress hormone, you’ll find that levels of it increase more rapidly in men than in women - in scenarios from golf rounds to public speaking - and that those spikes can hurt performance.

“Physically speaking, men are still stronger than women, on average, But if you’re talking about mental toughness, maybe in certain circumstances it’s women who have the edge.”

While many may still view women as “the fairer sex”, this study serves as proof that women are made of sterner stuff that people realise.

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