While men might be physically stronger, when it comes to mental toughness, women take out the top prize. A new study from the University of St. Gallen has found that when the stakes are high in a sports game, men choke far more often than women.
After analysing over 8,200 games of Grand Slam tennis matches, the researchers discovered that women held up significantly better when under high stress, while men crumbled under the competitive pressure more often, resulting in a drop in their performance.
And even if women did start to feel the pressure, their drop in performance was only about 50% that of the men’s.
“We looked at the performance of servers — who normally have an advantage — in every first set played at the 2010 French, US and Australian Opens and at Wimbledon,” explained lead author Alex Krumer in a statement. “We found that the men’s performance deteriorated more than the women’s when the game was at a critical juncture.”
While not a definitive reason, the explanation for the difference could be due to the stress hormone cortisol. “If you look at the literature on cortisol, you’ll find that levels of it increase more rapidly in men than in women, and that those spikes can hurt performance,” says Krumer.
Some other interesting performance tidbits came to light during the study as well: women perform better in same-sex environments than mixed sex, while for men it was the opposite. Braggadocio, anyone?
The authors also found that men performed better if they’d already won, while for women, winning or losing previously didn’t matter. This is thought to be due to the spike of testosterone men get with triumph, a known performance enhancer.
For women, even when you’re just struggling with that last set in the gym, remember that it’s mind over matter when it comes to hitting that last rep – you can do it! And for the guys, well, start thinking like the fairer sex.