- A study of 24 previous studies suggests that while there are gender differences, they have been over-exaggerated
- Fear that misconception of studies could become real-world stereotypes
- Many research studies have suggested that men are more willing to take risks than women – but one researcher is saying ‘not so fast’.
Julie Nelson, from the University of Massachusetts-Boston, said differences between the genders have been over-exaggerated by previous studies, and ignored strong overlap in decisions between men and women.
Her paper, ‘Are Women Really More Risk-Averse Than Men?’, published this week, looked at previous studies which looked into how genders acted in gambling situations.
Nelson, the chairman of the economics department, said: “My paper goes over the literature and says “not so fast”.’
‘The paper finds a lot of the economics and finance research in behavioral differences between men and women is vastly exaggerated.’
Nelson, along with a research assistant, analysed 24 articles which mainly concentrated on gambling habits – with most papers concluding that women are less willing to gamble.
Nelson did see small differences in the averages of the two genders in how much risk they are willing to take – but the conclusions seemed to maximise these differences
She said: ‘Academic articles hide that there is a lot of overlap between men and women.’
She also pointed out that much of the research was based on artificial set-ups, such as by asking participants to play lottery-style games in research facilities.
She said: ‘That’s easy to do with a bunch of undergraduates in a psych lab.’
According to ABC News, at least one researcher, after reading Nelson’s work, acknowledged that he may have over-stated the ‘robustness’ of previous findings.
Swedish scholar Kimmo Eriksson, in a 2010 paper called ‘Emotional reactions to losing explain gender differences in entering a risky lottery’ acknowledged that he had oversimplified previous research.
He said that previous studies showed that ‘females’ lower risk preferences and less risky behavior is robust across a variety of contexts.’
But the previous research studies he quoted had only seen a 60/40 majority of studies suggesting that women gambled more – the ‘sizable minority’ of 40 per cent showed either a negative or close to zero correlation.
In a blog, he wrote, in translation: ‘Julie Nelson is of course right that robustness was too strong a word.’
Julie warned that stereotypes based on gender and risk-aversion – particularly when perpetrated in studies – could lead to greater cultural bias in the workplace and society.
She added that society’s generalisations could impact on people’s decisions – for instance a cultural perception around gender-based gambling could influence someone more than an actual biological difference.
She even speculated: ‘Could the financial crisis that began in 2008 be attributed, at least in part, to issues of sex and gender?’
‘In the wake of the crisis, several commentators asked whether women leaders would have prevented it, or whether it would have happened “if Lehman Brothers had been Lehman Sisters”.
‘The evidence reviewed in this essay suggests, however, that the biological sex of the financial decision-makers or regulators is likely not the most important factor.’
Fonte: Daily Mail
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