Men who specifically target hostility at women bond more closely with other men and this is probably due to their ventral striatum and amygdala circuits

King of Hearts

King of Hearts

There seems to be a self-selecting group of men who are selectively hostile toward women. You can almost see them sitting around, “Dames, good for nuthin’ – they just want to take your money and your kid and sit around watching Oprah all day.”  I’ve been shocked to hear people say this in the presence of their significant other and their kids.

Once, I asked a guy  (again, this is a recovering alcoholic I know), if he told his mother that all women were all about exploiting men and watching Oprah. He was stunned: why would he tell his mother?  Well his mother was a woman — wasn’t she all about exploiting him and his father and watching Oprah all day?  This never occurred to him: it seems that he was only concerned with threatening women  — not his mother nor grandmother nor young blond movie stars.  But Oprah – symbolically – a threat. Same with Sen. Clinton. And a couple or three ex’s.

A recent study reports that some men do specifically target women for hostility — the more provoked,  the more hostile.  Interestingly, the more provoked, the more they bonded with other men. Here’s an excerpt from a study by Craig and Kathryn Anderson : Men who target women: specificity of target, generality of aggressive behavior:

“. . [U]nder high provocation, high hostility toward women predicted increases in male nonsexual aggression against women and slight decreases in male aggression against men. This effect remained significant even after controlling for general attitudes toward violence and for general levels of hostility and aggression, indicating that males who are highly hostile toward women specifically target women and that their aggression toward women generalizes beyond sexual aggression.. . “

It’s weird. The reader comments relating to “Clark Rockefeller” press show some of this – some men (and I’m presuming) seem to heap scorn on the ex wife, while gathering around in a protective shield for Mr. “Rockefeller”.

Here’s another version: Man hits wife twice with closed fist – not because she was physically threatening him, or in the defense of another — but rather because

. . . the couple had gone to a shindig early that evening and that Alan went ballistic when his missus was “hanging” with an unidentified individual and he felt she was “disrespecting” him.

(This isn’t the cleanest version of this old story – here, celebrity parents were reportedly drunk, the mother was having affairs, and the father hit her twice with a closed fist. But decking a woman for being romantically interested in someone else – real or imagined -  is pretty common. I’m sure people reading this are thinking – hey women do it too, it’s ok, she’s a slut/she’s a nut — all sorts of justification. Read some domestic violence literature first and then comment.)

In any event, if you deconstruct that emotional process, it is sort of like team spirit -intergroup emotional transfer.  Put in a more negative light, there’s reward from your own team for expressing contempt toward the other team (here, women in general), and, that only reinforces the threat perceived from the other team.  “Hurray for the fake Rockefeller, boo for the ex wife,” makes perfect sense according to theories of intergroup emotional transfer. Put another way, if your wife prefers someone else over you, cold-cocking her twice in the face with a closed fist is just a score for your team.  Other men express approval for this — even though this behavior is totally antisocial among friends, other family members, children, or strangers on the street.

Deconstructing the neurological correlates, social appraisal is strongly related to the reward and threat pathways — ventral striatum and amygdala circuits. Vrtička et al report neural correlates of  social apprisal as  viewed from the angle of the beholder – specifically, the beholder’s attachment style.   People with an anxious attachment style are less sensitive to positive feedback, and more sensitive to hostility. In keeping with this, people with high anxiety attachment style typically show increased monitoring and exaggerated appraisal of threats to the self, intensify negative emotional responses to emotional or social events and tend to search more for external sources of support and comfort.

Perhaps men with anxious attachment style perceive women as threats more readily – and band together, thereby reinforcing their disproportionate and irrational hostility.

Ladies, this may be the way you can avoid those men who have neurological pathways which permit unprovoked hostility and domestic violence – just look for the men sitting around together saying, “Dames, ain’t good for nuthin’ . . . .”