The brain activity in men and women is different during cooperative tasks - the reason why men and women have different approaches to cooperation, says a new research from Stanford University.
"The location of those differences may say a lot about the underlying cognitive strategies used by men and women," said Joseph Baker, a cognitive psychologist at Stanford University and lead author of the paper. "One of the biggest surprises was behavioral outcomes."
‘The brain activity of male-male pairs and female-female pairs were similar to their partners during a cooperative task. But the brain activity of male-female pairs was different.’
Previous studies have shown that women cooperate more when they're being watched by other women, and men tend to cooperate better in large groups.
The researchers tracked the brain activity of the participants in the study while they were cooperating with a partner. The researchers used a technique called 'hyperscanning' - in which the activity of two people's brains are simultaneously measured as they interact.
The results showed that different parts of the brain of men and women activated when working together on a simple task.
The study involved 222 participants, who were assigned a partner. The pairs consisted of two males, two females or a male and a female. The partners sat opposite each other, each in front of a computer, but could not speak to one another.
The participants were instructed to press a button when a circle on the computer screen changed color. But the button should be pressed simultaneously with their partner. After each try, the pair were told who had pressed the button sooner and how much sooner. They had 40 tries to get their timing as close as possible.
Dr Reiss said, "We developed this test because it was simple, and you could easily record responses. You have to start somewhere. It isn't modeled after any particular real-world cooperative task."
The results showed that male-male pairs performed better than female-female pairs at timing their button pushes more closely. The scans showed that the brain activity in both same-sex pairs was highly synchronized during the activity.
Dr Baker said, "Within same-sex pairs, increased coherence was correlated with better performance on the cooperation task. However, the location of coherence differed between male-male and female-female pairs."
The mixed-gender pairs did as well as male-male pairs though their brain scans did not show coherence.
The brain of men and women showed different patterns of activity during the task. However, more research may need to understand how gender-related differences in the brain inform cooperation strategy.
Dr Baker said, 'There are people with disorders like autism who have problems with social cognition. We're absolutely hoping to learn enough information so that we might be able to design more effective therapies for them."