Study: Guys Say Physical Harm Hurts Less When Inflicted By Women Instead Of Men
Male participants in a new study have claimed that it hurts less when they get physically hurt by females compared to males, prompting new questions regarding the relationship between pain perception and gender
In research conducted by Lund University in Sweden, experiments have shown that males seem to require more pain stimulation to reach a set threshold if the scientist administering the discomfort is female.
Separately, men recovering from surgery claimed they felt less pain when they were questioned by female attendants.
The research was done in an effort to better understand nociceptive pain, which is the most common physical type of pain resulting from damage to tissues in the body, often caused by an external injury.
Such pain is transmitted by two different types of nerve fibres that transmit signals to the brain at different speeds and can be experienced when we injure ourselves or undergo surgical procedures.
PhD candidate Anna Sellgren Engskov, who was behind the research, conducted distinct experiments where healthy volunteers were made to experience nociceptive pain
In one experiment, participants were made to feel pain via brief laser stimulations on their feet. This experiment yielded some surprising results regarding pain perceptions among different genders — adult male participants reported needing stronger laser stimulations to reach a predetermined pain threshold when the scientist conducting the experiment was female.
In a separate experiment, the same outcome was observed when participants inflicted pain upon themselves using a button wired to an electric shocking device. Whenever the scientist overseeing a session was female, participants (both male and female) required more stimulation to feel the same amount of pain.
All this transpired despite the scientists' best efforts to remain neutral and stick to a formulated script.
Surprised by these two experiments, Engskov pivoted her third experiment to focus on a different aspect of pain perception
In a study of 245 post-surgery patients at a hospital in Malmö, all participants were quizzed about the amount of pain they felt by a mixed set of male and female examiners. These sessions were conducted in random order with 15-minute gaps between each one.
Again, the results showed a similar pattern — males tended to reveal less pain when queried by female examiners.
"We were able to partially confirm our previous results here as well. Men, but not women, were in less pain when asked by a woman," Engskov said.
"The differences were not that great, and probably have no significance at group level. But for the individual patient it can matter, especially given that the differences in pain were greatest when it hurt so much that the patients started asking for pain relief," she added.
In the end, these results, while eye-opening, offered no conclusive takeaways
Despite an observable pattern, the research team was only able to speculate as to why men felt less pain when harmed or queried by women. One possible reason put forth was that women might have larger capacities for empathy compared to males, which might affect how much pain is felt.
For example, greater eye contact or wider smiles could very well be factors that determine how much pain is felt, and there have even been studies that provide a basis for these assumptions.
Ultimately, such findings could still be useful in helping medical practitioners provide better care for patients dealing with pain
"Perhaps the most exciting thing about Anna's research project is that her own discoveries in connection with the first study — less pain with a female researcher — inspired her to want to investigate this more closely," said Professor Jonas Åkeson, a supervisor for the project.
"Including the gender perspective when pain is evaluated can hopefully contribute to patients receiving even better care and pain treatment in the future," he added.
While the results of the experiments might play into to the phrase "you hit like a girl" in a weird, non-sexist sort of way, females might conversely take pride in the fact that their words might be scientifically proven to simply be more conducive to recuperation.