While men are often portrayed as aggressive and combative, a new study shows that, from the tennis court to the boxing ring — the modern-day equivalent of one-on-one conflict — men are more likely than women to make peace with their competitors after the final whistle blows.
Using videos of four sports in 44 countries, Joyce Benenson, an associate of Harvard’s Human Evolutionary Biology Department and a professor of psychology at Emmanuel College and Richard Wrangham, the Ruth B. Moore Professor of Human Evolutionary Biology, found that men are far more likely to engage in friendly physical contact — handshakes, back pats and even hugs — following competition than women. The study is described in an August 4 paper in Current Biology.
Importantly, Benenson said, the study also lends credence to what researchers call the “male warrior hypothesis” — the notion that males broker good feelings after conflict to ensure they can call on allies to help defend the group in the future.
“This finding feels very counterintuitive because we have social science and and evolutionary biology models that tell us males are much more competitive and aggressive,” Benenson said.
The next morning, I resolved not to speak to my friend and then I relented, knowing that his ravings were that of a person who was struggling. We chatted in the stilted way that didn’t hide what had happened. Perhaps we had both been in the wrong; almost certainly. But blokes don’t do sorries so, we shuffled around into light and meaningless exchanges. We were both guarded. I had tried to be a Good Samaritan, for whose benefit I did not really know. We were still there, in the deep-ends of lives that had turned against us and, to cap it all, we had turned against each other.
We went for coffee and some breakfast. His money had almost disappeared, all of his money, and he was going back to ruin of a house, without electricity of running water. The view from his back window was stunning, Snowden. The view inside was less so. That was our lives; great outlook, non-too special regarding the introspective. There was no doubt that our flash-flood had washed some of our friendship away and it would be some time before we spoke again, but flood-plains are fertile places.
He wanted to catch a bus to the airport as a way of saving cash. He had a big bag of luggage and a cycle in a box so that was going to be a a small Herculean-task. I suggested a taxi and gave him the majority of his fare.
“See you, mate, we’ll talk soon,” he shouted through the window as the taxi set off.
I waved and then went for a drink. I spent the day drinking and slept the sleep of the dead until Sunday morning when I awoke without the expected hangover. I needed to get off the island and get back to where I belonged.
The next day, I bought a flight-ticket and told the Head that I would be finishing my contract a week earlier.