Friends of the Behavioral Economics Blog, this week we present the paper “Gender differences in competitiveness: friends matter”, by Jorgensen, L. K.; Piovesan, M. and Willadsen, H. (2022), in which authors analyze whether men and women are equally influenced when they are surrounded by successful people and how this affects their competitiveness. 

Gender differences in the world of work are related, among other things, with the attitudes that men and women have towards elements such as, for example, competition. 

According to a 2007 paper by Niederle and Vesterlund, men are twice as likely to consider themselves suitable candidates to compete with others, while for women, the general tendency would be the opposite. 

It appears that individual risk preferences, self-confidence, and beliefs associated with gender stereotypes may be relevant factors that help explain why these differences in competitiveness between the sexes occur. 

Another factor gaining importance with studies in recent years is the network of friends and acquaintances. Recent literature has explored how exposure to groups of women affects other women in male-dominated workplaces. On this idea, it seems that having a feminine network is important for other women. 

Following this line of thought, authors of this article wondered whether a child’s friendships are associated with the development of his or her competitiveness and, specifically, whether and how the sex of these friendships influences them. 

Before explaining what the experiment consisted of, it is useful to give some interesting data of the most important insights from recent related articles. 

For example, in 2003, it was found that as an environment becomes competitive, men seem to increase their performance, while the opposite occurs for women, generally speaking.

In 2007, Niederle and Vesterlund concluded that men compete more, a trend that persists even when risk aversion is controlled. 

In 2015, Sutter and Glätzle-Rützler conducted a study with findings such as that boys and girls are equally willing to compete. However, girls’ performance under incentives is significantly lower than boys’. In addition, this same study comments that boys are much more self-confident. 

In the working world, gender stereotypes associated with a job or task may explain the underrepresentation of women in competitive environments. If women perceive competitiveness as a masculine trait, they may feel pressured to act in contrary ways to meet expectations. 

And regarding the friendships idea we discussed a few lines above, as Booth and Nolen commented in a 2012 study, girls in feminine schools in the UK are 42% more likely to compete compared to girls attending co-educational schools. They argue that when females are in peer groups, they suffer less anxiety when doing group work, are more participative and develop more their career aspirations. 

The experiment conducted by the authors of our article was carried out with 338 children and adolescents aged 7 to 16 years. The children received a box with 120 Lego pieces and were given 3 minutes to build a series of specific constructions. 

In the first stage of the experiment, the children received 1 point for each correct construction. In the second stage, they competed with other children. Then, they had to evaluate their work and, finally, they were shown pictures of a boy and a girl and asked about their performance.

The obtained results were very interesting. It seems that the boys were no more willing to compete compared to the girls in the case of this particular sample. 

However, something caught the attention of the authors. Boys and girls with a higher than average success rate are supposed to be more likely to compete. In the case of the top-performing girls, this was not the case and they were almost 12% less likely than boys to choose to compete

Regarding the idea of the network of friends, authors found that girls are more likely to participate in a tournament or competitive activity if one of their friends possesses this personality trait.

Overall, for both girls and boys, a positive association was found between the competitiveness of their friends and classmates and their own competitiveness

Authors consider it very interesting to continue investigating these ideas in order to help develop the maximum potential of women and men from an early age, through improving their educational environments.

If you want to know more about Behavioral Economics and how to apply it to human behavior, take a look to our Master of Science in Behavioral Economics, a 100% online program that you can take in Spanish or English. Ask us about our grants!

Friends of the Behavioral Economics Club, this week we present the paper “Women are Better at Selecting Gifts than Men” by Pollmann, M. M. H. and van Beest, I. (2013), in which authors carry out a series of experiments to check if as it is socially believed, women give better gifts than men.

We know that giving gifts is a universal phenomenon that exists in almost all human cultures. Billions of dollars are spent each year on gifts when birthdays, holidays, and Christmas arrive.

However, although gifts are symbols of love and appreciation, not all of them are valued as much as the one who gives them hopes.

Gifts serve very important interpersonal functions because they help build and reformulate relationships. For example, a previous study mentioned in the article showed that bad gifts can damage a relationship.

That is, a good gift benefits the receiver, benefits the giver and the relationship, but it always depends on whether the gift is appropriate or not.

Choosing the perfect gift is difficult, and it is believed that one of the factors that play a role in how successful its delivery will be is the gender of the person who gives the gift.

Socially, the idea that women give better gifts is accepted because they tend to be more concerned with expressing love and affection than men. But can it be demonstrated empirically?

Authors believe that this may happen due to differences in people’s sensitivity levels, especially two factors: first, interest in other people; second, one needs to be able to take the other’s perspective. That is, to the extent that a person is interested in others and can effectively adopt the perspective of another, he/she should be better able to predict the latter’s preferences regarding receiving a gift. In the collective imagination, those who possess these most developed characteristics are women.

To improve the first aspect, the autism spectrum quotient was used. This questionnaire captures the degree to which people care about social interactions. And men usually have more autistic traits than women, which suggests to the authors that the social interest of women is higher and, therefore, they hypothesize that women would indeed give better gifts.

The second aspect, interpersonal sensitivity, is measured by the interpersonal reactivity index. This scale captures the extent to which one empathizes and engages in perspective taking. Women request to have significantly higher scores than men in this questionnaire; that is, women feel more empathy.

In the first of the studies carried out, authors selected a series of people close to their environment, who had different relationships: family, romantic or friendship, and had known each other for an average time of almost 17 years.

Participants were visited at home and authors told them what the study was about. To create a realistic gift selection situation, brochures were designed with images of 30 different gifts with a maximum value of approximately 20 euros.

The results showed that women selected better than men, without affecting the different types of relationship.

Later, authors conducted a second study to improve the results of the first one and give the results greater precision. They selected a total of 67 men and 121 women, all college students.

In this study, a young woman was used as the target person, who indicated her preferences for the subjects to consider. Each person was asked to imagine that they had to give her a gift of about 10 euros, and it could be selected from one of the stores that this target person indicated she liked. Depending on whether they chose stores that the target person liked more or less, they would score higher or lower.

The results again supported the hypothesis that women are better at giving gifts, as they scored higher in this latest study.

It seems that the fact that women show more interest in interpersonal issues explains why they can select better gifts for others.

Still, the authors conducted a third study, where the results continued to point in the same direction.

They also found that heterosexual men react more negatively when their female partner gives them a gift they do not like, compared to heterosexual women when this occurs. Therefore, women have had to gradually develop this ability to give better gifts.

One limitation of the study is its novelty, so authors recommend that further research should be carried out on the subject in order to draw more precise conclusions.

If you want to know more about Behavioral Economics and how to apply it to human behavior, take a look to our Certificate in Behavioral Economics, a formative program, in English or Spanish, 100% online and certified by Heritage University (USA). Now, with discounts for members of this club.


Friends of the Behavioral Economics Club, this week we present the paper “Gender priming in solidarity games” by Cadaoas Tacneng, R. and Martin Puzon, K. A. (2021), in which authors investigate whether a difference exists between the women’s behavior and men’s behavior when it comes about being solidary regarding money.

We know that everyone has a social identity, which can be gender, ethnic, religious, national, and even corporate.

Research has shown that once one of these types of identities stands out above the others, people tend to behave according to that particular identity.

It is what the authors call “priming”.

The purpose of the article is to examine how gender priming affects the ability of individuals to show solidarity with others when it comes to money.

Authors ask themselves questions such as: are there significant gender differences in behavior? How does thinking about our gender identity affect the will to be solidary?

There are a series of gender stereotypes that almost everyone knows. For example, look after the community and care about it is often associated with the feminine, while agent behaviors are often identified as masculine.

In the context of a country like the Philippines, which is where the experiment takes place, women are traditionally perceived as housewives and responsibilities include prioritizing family and household over other tasks.

In general terms, girls suffer more restrictions and the idea that their place is in the home stills existing, while boys enjoy more freedom.

In addition, there are intergenerational transfer mechanisms in families that determine the opportunities that will be available to sons and daughters.

For example, in rural areas, parents tend to prefer that boys take over the work of the land, investing more economic resources for girls so they can study.

Gender systems are complex and varied. As everyone belongs to a certain social group, it implies that they also subscribe to a complete normative system. Their decisions are greatly influenced by this system, by values ​​and by the culture of the place where people live.

The norms that dictate what is considered an appropriate behavior for men and women often depend on concepts related to family altruism. And it happens that when women deviate from this particular norm, they are considered to be not feminine enough.

Also, it should be noted that all gender variations depend on the context of the country we are talking about.

Therefore, it is important to always specify which one we are talking about, and what its history is.

For the research, authors carried out an experiment with a total of 96 people.

This consisted, firstly, of a questionnaire in which people were asked about the main differences perceived, in their opinion, between men and women.

In this way they were made more aware of these behavioral differences, facilitating priming.

Subsequently, a “game” was played in pairs. In it, both participants were asked about the following: imagining that both have the same amount of money and economic resources in general, how much would they give their partner if he/she loses in a dice game with 2/3 odds of winning?

Obtained results were interesting, although they did not surprise us.

A gender difference was observed in the amount donated to the partner, in the sense that women tended to give a greater amount.

This means that women tend to care more about others without expecting anything in return, when they are aware of their gender (that is, after priming).

That is, women seemed to think more about equity than about maximizing their own money, observing the opposite in men.

Regarding the exercise of priming, strength and maturity were cited as characteristics of the male gender, while responsibility, discipline, emotion, sensitivity, affection and patience were associated with women.

With these data we can affirm that, according to this study, it seems that when people reflect on gender and are more aware of their behavioral conditioning, they act accordingly, and the differences between them become more evident.

Authors comment that it is suggested that this “activation” promotes gender roles and stereotypes, so that decision-making by oneself should be motivated, trying to eliminate behavioral conditioning.

They point out that, in the future, they will intend to refine this study to obtain more conclusive results, in addition to studying to what extent the differences between genders have a biological or purely social component.

If you want to know more about Behavioral Economics and how to apply it to human behavior, take a look to our Certificate in Behavioral Economics, a formative program, in English or Spanish, 100% online and certified by Heritage University (USA). Now, with discounts for members of this club.


Behavioral Economics Blog