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By Steven G. Mehta

I have been up to my ears in work and stuff that I haven’t had a chance to post.  But I thought you might be interested in the study I found regarding the differences in gender as to decision making.  The following is excerpted from Science Daily.

An experiment by researchers at the University of Warwick has found the first real evidence that men tend to make black-or-white judgements when women are more prone to see shades of grey in choices and decisions.


The research paper, entitled Sex Differences in Semantic Categorization, is about to be published in the Archives of Sexual Behavior. Authors Vickie Pasterski, Karolina Zwierzynska, and Zachary Estes are all from the Department of Psychology at the University of Warwick.

The researchers found that men were more likely to make absolute category judgments (e.g., a tomato is either a fruit or not), whereas women made less certain category judgments (e.g., a tomato can “sort of” belong in the fruit category). The women surveyed tended to be much more nuanced in their responses and were 23% more likely to assign an object to the “partial” category.

While it has been a popular belief that such a male/female split exists, as far as the researchers are aware, this is the first time such a sex difference in categorization has been shown experimentally.

University of Warwick psychologist Dr Zachary Estes says:

“Of course, simply because we have found a significant sex difference in how men and women categorize does not mean that one method is intrinsically better than the other. For instance, male doctors may be more likely to quickly and confidently diagnose a set of symptoms as a disease. Although this brings great advantages in treating diseases early, it obviously has massive disadvantages if the diagnosis is actually wrong. In many cases, a more open approach to categorizing or diagnosing would be more effective.”

Story Source:

The above story is reprinted (with editorial adaptations by ScienceDaily staff) from materials provided by University of Warwick.


Journal Reference:

  1. University of Warwick (2011, April 26). Men tend to leap to judgement where women see more shades of grey, research shows. ScienceDaily. Retrieved April 28, 2011, from­ /releases/2011/04/110418083345.htm

By Steven G. Mehta

I don’t need to be told twice that men and women are very different in the way that they react to everything.  The fact is that gender differences research is very important because men and women do react so very differently to specific situations.  A recent study reflects how the different genders reflect on failure.

Here is the abstract of the article How do women account for failure when they expect success? by Verna-Jean Amell Semkow and Michael McCarrey

Recent research suggests that men and women account for failures differently. Competent, self-aware men discount failures; competent, self-aware women accept them. This style of accounting for failure outcomes in achievement has been explored in studies of attribution and, more recently, the expectancies an individual holds regarding the outcome (to fail or succeed). The theories do not predict acceptance of failure by competent, self-aware individuals. The incongruent results have been consequently explained as a sex difference. Closer evaluation of the research, however, indicates that most women expect failure rather than success, and that this is a learned expectation. This study attempted to answer whether an exposure to success experiences would alter this expectancy and, if so, whether women would then discount failures in a self-serving manner as men do. Through a manipulation of success and failure outcomes using anagram tasks, it was demonstrated that, given an expectation to succeed, women did use systematic biased attributions to account for failure. These findings have significant implications for attribution research and for our understanding of women’s attitude towards achievement and ability to maintain a sense of well-being when faced with failure.

I think that the simple takeaway for negotiations is that prior to negotiations, there needs to be some way that an expectation of success can be given to the female negotiators.  This will serve two purposes:  First, other studies have shown that the greater the expectation of success, the better the negotiator will do in the negotiations regardless of gender.  Creating an expectation of success will help the negotation process.  Second, if the negotiation fails, based upon this research, women might discount the failure more and be more ready get into other similar negotiations.

My concern is that the issue of not discounting failure because of the lack of expectation may have greater long term ramifications.  Specifically, this could create a cycle of lower expectations which could ultimately affect women’s ability to negotiate in life.

By Steven G. Mehta

Since March is National Women’s History Month, I thought it would be interesting to add a small contribution to the information regarding gender differences.  Vickie Pynchon has been dedicating this month in her blog to writing about gender bias that continues to exist in the profession.  Her theme has been to show that bias can be demonstrated in many ways in which we may not think about.  Well another example of that potential bias is in the way we identify names.  Think of the traditional introduction in a wedding.  I now introduce you to Mr. and Mrs. John Doe.  Well a recent study shows that putting male names before female names in writing is a remnant of sexist thinking. This is the finding of a study published in the British Journal of Social Psychology by Dr Peter Hegarty and colleagues of the University of Surrey.

Dr Hegarty said: “In the 16th century, naming men before women became the acceptable word-order to use because of the thinking that men were the worthier sex. This grammar has continued with ‘Mr and Mrs’, ‘his and hers’ and the names of romantic couples like Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet. While the original sexist ideas behind this grammar are no longer accepted, we wanted to investigate whether the sexist habit of male names coming before female names still holds true and the psychological reasons why this might be.”

The researchers investigated the modern written context of the internet. Using 10 popular British boys and girls names and 10 popular American boys and girls names, the team searched the internet using each of the possible male-female name pairs as search terms, for both the male name first — i.e. ‘David and Sarah’, and then female name first — ‘Sarah and David’.

The results of this search found that for the British name pairs, the male-first name pairings accounted for 79 per cent of the mentions, and female-first pairs only 21 per cent. For the American names this was 70 per cent of the mentions were male-first and 30 per cent for female-first.

Dr Hegarty said: “These results were found to be statistically significant, and support the idea that gender stereotypes still affect the written language. It has been argued that the male-first effect isn’t down to sexism but that it is due to phonological attributes of male names, or because male names come more readily to mind as they are popular and familiar. We therefore carried out further studies to investigate whether the male-first finding was a gender stereotyping effect.”

One hundred and 21 people were asked to imagine a heterosexual couple who were either ‘quite traditional and who conform strictly to gender scripts about how the two genders should behave’ or ‘non-traditional who deviate radically’. They were then asked to write down five name-combinations for their imaginary couple.

Participants named the imagined ‘traditional couples’ men-first more often than chance, but this effect was not seen for the naming of ‘non-traditional’ couples.

In a third study, 86 people were asked to write down names of an imagined lesbian or gay couple. Participants were then asked to assign attributes such as annual earnings, interest in fashion, interest in sport and physical attributes to each individual — for example Simon is physically stronger than John. Participants assigned significantly more of the masculine attributes and fewer of the feminine attributes to the person they named first.

Dr Hegarty said: “The results of our studies suggest that people tend to put men, or male qualities, before women. As this is a remnant of the sexist grammar of the 16th century, it would seem that psychologically, we are still sexist in writing.”

Gender discrimination can be very pervasive yet hidden in front of our faces.  It is important to understand that bias can and does exist.  Only then can we begin to combat these biases that we may have.

Research Source:

British Psychological Society (BPS) (2010, March 12). Men, not ladies, first: We’re still sexist in writing. ScienceDaily. Retrieved March 22, 2010, from

By Steven G. MehtaSteve Mehta

It is no secret that men and women communicate differently.  Hundreds of books have been written on the difference between the genders in communicating.  New research, however, shows that men and women may be similar in aspects of communicating.

“It’s a stereotype that men are direct while women are tentative. I debunk that stereotype,” said Nicholas Palomares, assistant professor of communication at UC Davis. Palomares published his findings in “Women Are Sort of More Tentative Than Men, Aren’t They?,” an article in the August issue of the journal Communication Research.

“I found that women are more tentative than men sometimes, and men are more tentative than women sometimes,” Palomares said. “It depends on the topic and whether you’re communicating with someone of the same gender. Gender differences in language are not innate; they’re fickle.”

In his study, men were tentative when writing about stereotypically feminine topics, especially when they thought they were writing to a woman.  On the other hand, Women were tentative when writing about stereotypically masculine topics, especially when they thought they were communicating with a man.  However, there was no difference in hedging or tentative communications when discussing a gender neutral topic.

“The metaphor that men and women are from different planets should be jettisoned and replaced with a more accurate one,” Palomares writes in his article. “Men and women are from different blocks in the same neighborhood, and they tend to move often.”

This research is helpful in reminding us that communicating between genders can be a delicate thing. It is important during negotiations to not assume that when a women is tentative in her communications that she is unsure of the topic.  Instead, it could simply be because of the male-female dialogue.

Second, communicating in a tentative form is not a bad thing.  It helps to soften the comment that you make.  Mediators frequently use hedging terminology to ease the impact on the recipient.  Take for example two similar sentences:  “Your case is very bad on causation,”  versus “You might consider that perhaps your case on case isn’t as strong as you might think it is.”  Both sentences send the same message regarding the merits of causation.  The latter, however, is much easier on the recipient to accept.  Thus it is possible that the hedging language is not necessarily based on knowledge of the subject, but instead is based in concern for avoiding confrontation.

Steve’s Book

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