A Moment of Science

Stress and its Aftereffects

In a recent study participants were asked to perform tasks while blasted with random and really loud office sounds.

The idea was to study people’s reaction to stress. As it turns out, even though men and women participants did equally well at the assigned tasks while the noise was going on, they reacted quite differently afterward. When researchers offered them their choice of snack and then asked them to solve an unsolvable maze in peace and quiet, each gender responded differently.

The women who exhibited the most frustration during the noisy part of the test chose to eat more and fattier foods afterward, and gave up more quickly on the maze than the women who weren’t as frustrated.

What’s even more interesting is that, during the first part of the test, some participants were told they could turn off the noise if it got to be too much. Even though no one did, the women who thought they had control over the noise didn’t get nearly as frustrated as the women who thought they didn’t.

For the men, there was no similar correlation between frustration and eating. If anything, the more frustrated the men got, the longer they worked on the maze, regardless of whether they thought they had control over the noise.

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