Love hurts . . . especially if you are a man. Research has revealed males will willingly stand more pain if the person tormenting them is a woman.

The research confirms suspicions that men change their behaviour dramatically in the presence of women and struggle to resist showing off in front of them. In other words, they don’t want to appear a wimp.

The study at Stirling University’s psychology department examined the pain thresholds of 64 male and female students while increasing levels of pressure were applied to their chests.

When the men were tested by a male researcher dressed in jeans and a T-shirt they were able to withstand nearly a third more pain than their female counterparts.

But when the volunteers were tested by a 21-year-old female dressed in a skirt and high heels "to emphasis her gender role", the men reported pain thresholds much higher than in the tests with the male researcher.

Dr Karel Gijsbers, who conducted the study, claims that the male students displayed typical macho behaviour in front of the female researcher.

He also believes the physical appearance of the female researcher may also have helped to "distract" the men.

He said: "A macho effect or inadvertent distraction could explain the experimental results. Distraction is a common form of mentally coping with pain."

But Gijsbers is puzzled as to why the change in gender failed to produce any change in the women who were tested.

However, the research has a serious point. Gijsbers believes it has highlighted a serious problem for hospital staff as male patients may under- report their levels of pain if a female doctor or nurse is examining them.