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December 08, 2005

"Landmark" Study: Women Need Friends

Another huge advance in science. This ranks right up there with the double-helix.

Friendships between women are special. They shape who we are and who we are yet to be.

I'm going to go out on a limb and guess this is a female writer writing for a female audience. What, couldn't work Haagen-Dazs and Desperate Housewives into your thesis sentence?

They soothe our tumultuous inner world, fill the emotional gaps in our marriage and help us remember who we really are.

And sometimes, when we're writing utter pap, they reassuringly coo to us "That's really quite good. I like the use of the words 'soothe' and 'tumultuous.'"

But they may do even more than that. Scientists now suspect that hanging out with our girlfriends can actually counteract the kind of stomach-quivering stress most of us experience daily.

A landmark University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA), study suggests that women respond to stress with a cascade of brain chemicals that tend to make them seek out and maintain friendships with other women. It's a stunning finding that has turned five decades of stress research - most of it done on men - upside down.

"Until this study was published, scientists generally believed that when people experience stress, they trigger a hormonal cascade that revs the body to either stand and fight or flee as fast as possible," explains Laura Cousino Klein, Ph.D., now an assistant professor of biobehavioral health at Pennsylvania State University in State College and also one of the study's authors. It's an ancient survival mechanism left over from the time we were chased across the planet by saber-toothed tigers. Now the researchers suspect that women have a larger behavioral repertoire than just "fight or flight." In fact, according to Klein, it seems that when the hormone oxytocin is released as part of the stress response in a woman, it buffers the "fight or flight" response and encourages her to tend to her children and gather with other women instead.

When a woman actually engages in these tending or befriending behaviors, studies suggest that more oxytocin is released, further countering stress and producing a calming effect. This calming response does not occur in men, says Klein, because testosterone - which men produce in high levels when they're under stress - seems to reduce the effects of oxytocin. Estrogen, she adds, seems to enhance it.

The discovery that women respond to stress differently than men was made in a classic "aha!" moment shared by two women scientists who were talking one day in a lab at UCLA. "There was this joke that when the women who worked in the lab were stressed, they came in, cleaned the lab, had coffee and bonded," Klein says. "When the men were stressed, they holed up somewhere on their own. ... I commented one day to fellow researcher Shelley Taylor that nearly 90 percent of the stress research is on males. I showed her the data from my lab, and the two of us knew instantly that we were onto something."

This reverses 100 years of sociological research suggesting that women are responsible for 88% of all broken-beer-bottle barfights.

Coming Soon: Study suggests that lack of food before 2pm causes women to become "demonstrably cranky."

Thanks to Allah.

Another Breakthrough: Men get irrationally aggressive when stressed:

Finally, an explanation for why bar bets sometimes escalate into bar fights: Levels of a "high-octane" form of testosterone soar when men think others don't trust them.

Finally! Indeed. I've oftened wondered why men can get out of hand quickly. Now I know it's due to this heretofore unknown hormone called -- what was the spelling? -- "testosterone."

Economist Paul Zak of the Claremont Graduate University in Southern California said scientists have known for years that aggressive behavior in animals is sparked by elevated testosterone (which is present in men and women, though women have significantly smaller amounts). For example, testosterone levels have been shown to spike upward in both sexes before an athletic match as contestants psych themselves up.

Shut up, really?


While neither men nor women like being distrusted, "women don't have the same physiological reaction as men do," Zak says. "Women are just physiologically cooler. Women are probably better negotiators because they don't have these emotionally charged responses."

But another researcher found that being pumped up isn't always a bad thing: Men with elevated levels of testosterone were less likely to accept unfair offers in a different game where people were offered ultimatums.

Again... you could have polled 100 car-dealers about this and spared yourself the trouble, guys.

Yet Another Jaw-Dropper: Study "suggests" brain wired to drive for reproduction.

Yes, you can read all these shocking scientific discoveries in the new quarterly, New England Journal of Retard-Science.

Again thanks to Allah.

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posted by Ace at 04:52 PM

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