When most animals, including human beings, are confronted with danger, they typically respond with what psychologists nickname the "fight or flight" response--either confront and combat the threat, or retreat from it.

In modern times, however, this doesn't necessarily involve dangerous predators. The "fight or flight" response will manifest when someone is, say, confronted with a new assignment in class or a new chore at home. The individual may "fight" by taking it on or refusing to comply, or "take flight" by avoiding the work or hiding from the person assigning it. The response is still there, but the idea of "danger" takes on a less literal form.

What's interesting, though, is that this "fight or flight" response is mainly a male reflex. Men, on the average, are more likely to respond to stress, problems or arguments by tackling them head-on, by themselves and right away. Women are more likely to want to discuss the problem before confronting it. The reason for this, it turns out, may be hormonal.

In May of 2000, a psychologist at the University of California named Shelley Taylor defined what her team called the "tend and befriend" response, a tendency to seek out social support which was far more common in female humans and animals than in males. This response went unnoticed in previous studies, they argue, due to heavily male participation.

The suggested culprit is a hormone called oxytocin which is released into the body in response to stress, not unlike adrenaline. Unlike adrenaline, however, oxytocin induces calm and relaxation and counteracts the "flight" reflex. Oxytocin is present in both males and females, but male hormones seem to counteract its influence, while estrogen enhances it.