Friday, October 31, 2014

Do women make better decisions?

It depends entirely upon your definition of "better":
Mara Mather, a cognitive neuroscientist at the University of Southern California, and Nichole R. Lighthall, a cognitive neuroscientist now at Duke University, are two of the many researchers who have found that under normal circumstances, when everything is low-key and manageable, men and women make decisions about risk in similar ways. We gather the best information we can, we weigh potential costs against potential gains, and then we choose how to act. But add stress to the situation — replicated in the lab by having participants submerge their hands in painfully cold, 35-degree water — and men and women begin to part ways.

Dr. Mather and her team taught people a simple computer gambling game, in which they got points for inflating digital balloons. The more they inflated each balloon, the greater its value, and the risk of popping it. When they were relaxed, men and women took similar risks and averaged a similar number of pumps. But after experiencing the cold water, the stressed women stopped sooner, cashing out their winnings and going with the more guaranteed win. Stressed men did just the opposite. They kept pumping — in one study averaging about 50 percent more pumps than the women — and risking more. In this experiment, the men’s risk-taking earned them more points. But that wasn’t always the case.

In another experiment, researchers asked participants to draw cards from multiple decks, some of which were safe, providing frequent small rewards, and others risky, with infrequent but bigger rewards. They found that the most stressed men drew 21 percent more cards from the risky decks than from the safe ones, compared to the most stressed women, losing more over all.

Across a variety of gambles, the findings were the same: Men took more risks when they were stressed. They became more focused on big wins, even when they were costly and less likely.

Levels of the stress hormone cortisol appear to be a major factor, according to Ruud van den Bos, a neurobiologist at Radboud University in the Netherlands. He and his colleagues have found that the tendency to take more risks when under pressure is stronger in men who experience a larger spike in cortisol. But in women he found that a slight increase in cortisol seemed actually to improve decision-making performance.But the closer the women got to the stressful event, the better their decision making became. Stressed women tended to make more advantageous decisions, looking for smaller, surer successes. Not so for the stressed men. The closer the timer got to zero, the more questionable the men’s decision making became, risking a lot for the slim chance of a big achievement.
What the researchers failed to note is that this actually explains why there are so few female entrepreneurs and why it is much more often men who become very wealthy. The higher the risk, the more likely you are to lose everything, but the higher the potential reward. It's not an accident that many of the most wealthy men have gained, lost, and recovered, large fortunes. Unless your plan is to inherit wealth, accepting high levels of risk is the only way to become very wealthy.

So, what this means is that we could probably use more women in finance and fewer women in technology. We want people chasing risk in startups. We don't want them chasing it in banks.


Harambe said...

So, basically if we waterboard feminists usingreally cold water, they will feel less inclined to overthrow the patriarchy?

Anonymous said...

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Glen Filthie said...


I'm a little older than you Vox and I can tell you - this is NOTHING. Back in the 70's women positively roared: They would make better fighter pilots because they can multitask and concentrate better than men. They made better leaders and built better teams because they worked by consensus. The demands of motherhood would make them better corporate execs as well. Hell - anything you can do - they can do better!!!

Fast forward 35 years...and last I heard, the Navy had to female fighter pilots. Both are tokens; and both have ejected from their aircrafts at least once. They don't do any of that icky scary stuff like landing on aircraft carriers at night in bad weather...but they look good on recruitment posters and are great for appearances with Oprah and the coffee klatch girls! As for leadership...up here in liberal Canada we have new female politicos everywhere and at least 75% of them are more incompetent and corrupt than the men they replaced. Likewise, our female corporate execs are burning out at incredible speed - it can only be because of sexism!!!! (When men get burned out they are replaced by the management like burnt out light bulbs). And - for some gawdly unknown reason...women in these high stress/high profile exec positions are having HUGE problems with booze and tobacco and all the health problems that go along with them.

To me this is just another study that women are famous for: establish a hypothesis and then create a study to support it. That way it is easier to refute the exception that proves the rule, and actually use it to prove another politically correct rule.

I would like to see this study done again, objectively. Were the male test subject actually male - or the usual flimps, betas and homosexuals that infest the liberal arts and mickey mouse programs? What about the women? Were they females, or the usual carpet munchers, hairy chested feminists with bad haircuts, and flat wall flowers that infest the liberal arts and mickey mouse programs? What about the stress? How about varying the methods of inducing it? We know that some stresses affect the genders differently. Etc etc.

Any study done is only as good as the people doing the work...

Jason773 said...

This should come as no big surprise, as women being risk averse can be seen in all types life microcosms.

I play poker regularly in a casino, and this dynamic is quite obvious at the tables. A vast majority of the women who play are definited by the term "nit", as they tend to do everything in their power to keep the pots small, very rarely, if ever, bluff and only make big bets when they have unbeatable or nearly unbeatable hands. This strategy of theirs is extremely exploitable, and while it is hard to win a huge pot off of most women, it is relatively easy to widdle them down little by little. The very few and far between good female pokers players that I've seen have learned how to exploit their "risk averse and tight" female image at the table by mixing up their game.

Crowhill said...

If I were an idiot I'd be waiting for the mainstream media to start accusing the left of "denying science." The truth is the science has been against feminist nonsense for decades, but they get a pass.

Unknown said...

That noise you hear is SJWs' heads collectively exploding at the fact that Vox just advocated for more women in a male-dominated profession.

Anonymous said...

How is this not an argument for beating your wife?

It also explains why Feminism plagues the affluent daughters. They grew up in low stress environments, with fathers interested in giving them all the benefits of men.


Anecdotally, I see this in pretty much every relationship. Where the woman controls the finances things are more stable but they just don't accumulate wealth. Where the men do the investing there are a lot of ups and downs.

CarpeOro said...

Example of better female decision making from history:

Og: Tribe starving, need more meat. Me hunt boar. Maybe die, but much food if kill boar.
NaNa: No Og!! Hunt rabbit! May get away but Og safe and NaNa maybe eat today. Rest of tribe can stuff it.

Low risk, low reward. Low reward means maybe maintaining status quo but almost never improving the status quo.

kurt9 said...

So, what this means is that we could probably use more women in finance and fewer women in technology. We want people chasing risk in startups. We don't want them chasing it in banks.

Excellent point, Vox. There are good professions that women are better at than men. For example, I think women make better airline pilots than men.

Anonymous said...

. For example, I think women make better airline pilots than men.

Computers make even better airline pilots.

grendel said...

I think cold water as a "Stress" test is extremely dubious. That said, if it's true that in stressful times women consider a bird in the hand to be worth two in the bush, while men take risks for a greater reward, those perspectives are complimentary and both aid the survival of the family.

John M Greene said...

This linked piece demonstrates a severe lack of understanding of the relationship between risk and return. Regardless of whether it is intentional to mislead or just pathetic ignorance such disregard for basic understanding statistics, economics and fundamental human behavior is all too prevalent in the MSM.

Every decision a human being makes involves an assessment of the potential gain to be made for taking a given risk. Whether it is deciding to invest in a tech startup vs an established blue-chip, get a vaccination, perform charity work in West Africa, or just get out of bed in the morning, everything we do involves an element of risk for which some sort of reward is expected. Most importantly, both the expected return and perceived risk are entirely subjective to the individual involved. Putting $100,000 into shares of Microsoft is an entirely different proposition for Bill Gates than it is for the woman that cleans his toilets.

Avering that women’s smaller, surer successes are somehow “more advantageous” than men’s “risking a lot for the slim chance of a big achievement” is utter gobbledygook.

Tl;dr – Women don’t necessarily make better decisions than men. Men and women just make decisions differently. Sorry equalists.

ray said...

'So, what this means is that we could probably use more women in finance.'

Uh, no. That's not what it means, and that's not what 'we' could use.

William Hughes said...

No autopilot has ever yet juggled three crap options and chosen the least shitty. They don't fall asleep though. I have had one attempt to flip my ship upside down...

Doom said...

The ones who were bolder, when they were feeling their oats, with whom I was involved, in a tactical manner, did. They waited until I decided then tried to prove it wrong. While that didn't make them right, it left them feeling they were on the high ground. Sex usually was what was being asked. Since they can't actually ask or demand, they just used this method. And, they usually got what they needed, along with forgiveness all around. Women, often, really don't care. That's just bait. So, if you think about it... if not regarding the debate topic, they were right. Trick or treat. *bam* Thank you ma'am. Love it when a plan comes together.

Matamoros said...

"If you are not willing to accept failure, how can you win?" Sifu Liu Meng-Fai

grendel said...

As this plays out in a whole population the risk taker group eventually wins all the rewards from the risk deck and the cowering group is left with what's in the safety deck. Which is why men go to the moon, and women slam into the glass ceiling of their risk averse tendencies.

buzzardist said...

It's a simple matter of odds. Women may win small most of the time. But, in entrepreneurship and in war, it's often big gambles that become decisive factors. Take a thousand men risking everything, and 999 will probably fail. But that one who succeeds will create more wealth, advance civilization farther, or change the world more than all of those small-winner women combined several times over.

Society needs both traits. And this is why it's so important to understand who likely has the appropriate trait for the appropriate situation.

Trust said...

I just one man married 10 years with 2 kids, but in the case of risk my wife won't take much risk herself but usually encourages me to do so (when she seems possible benefits and no cotlst for her anyway). I suspect many husbands get similar risk avoidance/encouragement from their wives.

Cadders said...

This is just another experiment confirming men are more exceptional than women. There will always be more men at the top, and bottom, of every human endeavor. More men will win big, and lose big, then women. Women will always tend to cluster around the average.

History is rarely written by the 'average'.

This is the truth that the equalists just don't get. Sucks to be a feminist.

John Williams said...

I don't get it. Holding yor hand in 35F water is painful. We all know women are better at tolerating pain because childbirth. Why even conduct this test because the women will win. [\sarcasm]

CarpeOro said...

Of course another point to remember is learning from failure. If you never fail big, there is every chance you will never succeed big either. Likely the source of innumerable quotes - from men. One of my favorites being Montrose's toast. While women may understand it, few are willing to risk following it.

Dexter said...

For example, I think women make better airline pilots than men.

And the evidence for this is what, exactly?

Mindstorm said...

^ Who knows?

MichaelJMaier said...

Since when do idiot libs provide evidence?

Akulkis said...

Example of better female decision making from history:

Og: Tribe starving, need more meat. Me hunt boar. Maybe die, but much food if kill boar.
NaNa: No Og!! Hunt rabbit! May get away but Og safe and NaNa maybe eat today. Rest of tribe can stuff it.

Low risk, low reward. Low reward means maybe maintaining status quo but almost never improving the status quo.

AS Camillia Paglia said: "If civilization were left in the hands of women, we would all still be living in trees."

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