Are men better at making up after a fight than women?

Posted by
Anna Pollitt
backgroundLayer 1
Add this article to your list of favourites

Bitter? Prone to holding a grudge? It's because you're a woman, a controversial new study suggests.

Women inherently struggle to "let go" after a fight, US researchers claim, while men are more inclined to making peace after conflict.

Researchers from Harvard University and Emmanuel College have reached the conclusion after noting a contrast in male and female behaviour in the moments after professional sports matches.

Men spend twice as long hugging it out after taking part in competitions against each other than women do, claims the research, published this week in Current Biology

"What you'll see is that many times females brush their fingers against each other," lead author Professor Joyce Benenson tells BBC News

"You're expected by the sport to do something but it's so frosty. However, with the males even with a handshake you can see the warmth, the tightness of it."

The researchers said men spend 125% longer on peaceful contact with their opponent after competing - and they noted that the ultra-physical contact sport of boxing gives rise to the most affectionate scenes.

The study goes on to suggest that women may struggle to resolve disagreements with female colleagues in the workplace - though it does acknowledge that playing sport is quite different to a day at the office.

“Women may be less invested than men in sports for reasons such as reduced interest, lesser financial compensation, or lower prestige, which could weaken their incentive to repair a conflict and participate in the future,” they write.

Confirmation bias?

Jemima Olchawski, head of policy and insight at the Fawcett Society, tells that the study findings are "absurd" and serve only to fuel unhelpful gender stereotypes.

"When we rely on broad generalisations about men and women we can easily miss the evidence in front of us about a particular person their skills, contribution and effort," she explains. "Too often this means women's talents at work, for example, are under recognised and under valued."

Given that the results are gauged from watching sports videos, Olchawski could have a point.

Another widely established gender stereotype is that men tend to verbalise their feelings far less than women, in which case those extra-long post-match hugs could be a result of preferring physical contact over words - rather than women being "worse" at reconciliation.

Professor Benenson now wants to delve deeper into "physiological" structures behind the perceived gender differences.

Perhaps instead of spending time eking out apparent imbalances between male and female behaviours at sporting events, more research into similarities between the sexes may serve everyone better?


Images: Rex Features, iStock, Giphy


Share this article


Anna Pollitt

Anna is a freelance writer and editor who’s been making her dime from online since 2007. She’s a regular at, ITV News and Emerald Street and moonlights as a copywriter and digital content consultant.