Revealed: Men and women do think and act differently

Men are more likely to make extreme choices and decisions than women, according to research on economic decision-making led by an international team of scientists.

This is the main finding of new research involving more than 50,000 participants in 97 samples, published in the prestigious journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America (PNAS).

The findings show that the more extreme choices and decisions of men can be both positive and negative.

“The question of whether men and women make systematically different choices and decisions is one of the most fundamental (and controversial) questions in psychological research,” said Associate Professor Stefan Volk, from the University of Sydney Business School.

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“We found men were much more likely than women to be at the extreme ends of the behavioural spectrum, either acting very selfishly or very altruistically, very trusting or very distrusting, very fair or very unfair, very risky or very risk averse and were either very short-term or very long-term focused.”

Our research suggests policies aimed at reducing extreme behaviours should be more tailored towards men.

The findings could impact policies aimed at regulating extreme behaviours such as the recent GameStop trading frenzy after retail traders on Reddit heavily shorted the stock.

“Our research suggests policies aimed at reducing extreme behaviours should be more tailored towards men,” said Assoc. Prof. Volk.

The researchers suggest the differences might have evolutionary roots, but there are also alternative explanations for the existence of what is often referred to as greater male variability.

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“Parental investment theory explains that men, in contrast to women, invest less in parenting, are less selective in their partner choice and compete more for sexual partners,” Assoc. Prof. Volk explained.

“This evolutionary theorising suggests that men had to deviate from the average to stand out and be attractive to women to reproduce, while women were able to attract sexual partners without deviating from the average.

“Another explanation could be norms and expectations of acceptable gendered behaviour and that men’s extreme behaviours are socially constructed and reinforced.

“This alternative theory suggests that the socially constructed patriarchy in many societies has managed to constrain women and the opportunity for them to display the same level of variability as men.” 

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Assoc. Prof. Volk worked with an international team to examine sex differences in altruism, cooperation, trust, fairness and attitudes towards time and risk in economic decision-making. The researchers found systematic evidence for greater male variability.

He said these gender differences in variability were difficult to detect in research focused on gender differences in average behaviours. “This is why they have been overlooked in most previous research, which traditionally focused on mean gender differences rather than the range of behaviours. But we need to look at differences in extreme behaviours to understand what might be driving those outliers.”

Does this research concur with what you thought or do you disagree? Why not have your say in the comments section below?

This article was republished with permission from the University of Sydney. You can view the original article here.

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