The reason why men are competitive and women are more social has been explained - and it’s all down to the hormone oxytocin.
Although known as the love hormone, it affects the sexes differently and not always in a loving way.
Researchers have discovered that in men it improves the ability to identify competitive relationships, whereas in women it enables the ability to identify friendship.
Following treatment with oxytocin, researchers found that in women it was the ability to correctly identify friendship that got better
‘Women tend to be more communal and familial in their behaviour, whereas men are more inclined to be competitive and striving to improve their social status,’ said Professor Simone Shamay-Tsoory, lead researcher at the University of Haifa in Israel.
The hormone oxytocin is released in our bodies in various social situations and our bodies create it at high concentrations during positive social interactions such as falling in love, experiencing an orgasm or giving birth and breastfeeding.
But in previous research Professor Shamay-Tsoory discovered that the hormone is also released in our body during negative social interactions such as jealousy or gloating.
In men the 'love hormone' improves the ability to identify competitive relationships, according to the study
A German study published in November found that a whiff of the ‘cuddle chemical’ oxytocin made men rate their partners as being more attractive.
Lead author Dirk Scheele at the University of Bonn said: ‘When the men received the oxytocin instead of placebo, the reward system in the brain was very active when viewing their partner and they perceived them as more attractive than other women.'
However, the hormone, which is released when we hug or kiss, did not make work colleagues or strangers look more beautiful in men’s eyes.
The current research, published in Social Cognitive and Affective Neuroscience, used 62 men and women aged 20 to 37.
Half of the participants received a dose of oxytocin while the other half received a placebo.
After a week, the groups switched with participants undergoing the same procedure with the other substance.
Following treatment, video clips showing various social interactions were screened.
Participants were asked to analyse the relationships by answering questions that focused on identifying friendship, intimacy and competition.
The participants were expected to base their answers, among other things, on gestures, body language and facial expressions.
The results showed that oxytocin improved the ability to better interpret social interactions in general.
When the researchers examined the differences between the sexes they discovered that following treatment with oxytocin, men’s ability to correctly interpret competitive relationships improved, whereas in women it was the ability to correctly identify friendship that got better.
Professor Shamay-Tsoory concluded: ‘Our results coincide with the theory that claims the social-behavioural differences between men and women are caused by a combination of cultural as well as biological factors that are mainly hormonal.’