An interesting new study has shown that male athletes touch each other more than female athletes after a sporting conflict. It also turns out that the male athletes demonstrate better “making up” skills – and it all comes down to touching each other. The researchers suspect that this could be some hardwired behaviour since chimps do the same thing – after a conflict they physically touch more in an almost consoling way. The researchers also point out that this behaviour in sport might be way males tend to dominate in certain social practices. Could the act of making supportive physical contact after a confrontation help people get along?
Researchers have long been puzzled by the abilities of male chimpanzees, who constantly bicker and fight, to put aside their differences and co-operate and work together in struggles for territory with other groups.
Studies showed that male and female chimps acted differently in the aftermath of fights, with males much more inclined to engage in reconciliation behaviours.
Psychologists wondered if the same habits were true for humans – and decided to analyse high-level, same sex sporting competitions for these reconciliation traits.
But across the four sports observed, men spent significantly more time touching than females, in what the authors term “post-conflict affiliation”.
“What you’ll see is that many times females brush their fingers against each other,” said lead author Prof Joyce Benenson from Emmanuel College and Harvard University.