Are women better decision makers?

By Therese Huston via nytimes.com

“RECENTLY, Senator Kirsten Gillibrand of New York said that if we want to fix the gridlock in Congress, we need more women. Women are more focused on finding common ground and collaborating, she argued. But there’s another reason that we’d benefit from more women in positions of power, and it’s not about playing nicely.

Neuroscientists have uncovered evidence suggesting that, when the pressure is on, women bring unique strengths to decision making.

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. …

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. …

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. …

WHEN women were stressed, however, from having to give a public speech, they actually found it easier than usual to empathize and take the other person’s perspective. Just the opposite happened for the stressed men — they became more egocentric.”

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: