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Culture & Religion

How Men and Women Think About Risk (Hint: Differently)

When faced with the classical risk dilemma—receive small gains now versus a big gain later—men and women have different ways of evaluating what is the best course of action. 

What’s the Latest Development?

According to recent research, men and women have different ways of evaluating the classical risk dilemma: Receive small gains now or a big gain later? A significant gender difference was noted by researchers in an experimental setup called the Iowa Gambling Task. In the Task, players choose cards from between four decks: Two of the decks contain cards that dole out large or frequent rewards, but consistently lead to losses in the long run. The other two decks provide a modest amount of cash per win but less loss over time, so they offer long-term gains for players who pick from them most frequently.

What’s the Big Idea? 

Researchers found that women are more sensitive to short-run financial losses than men. In the experiment, women were more likely to switch decks as soon as they were pinged with a setback, focusing on details such as the frequencies of wins and losses for each deck. Men, however, focussed on which of the decks led to gains in the long run, amassing greater wealth over time. “If, for example, the rules of wins and losses for the decks were switched midtask, women would clue in to the new patterns more quickly than men.” While men were better at finding long term gains, making more detail-oriented decisions worked in women’s favor.

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Read it at Scientific America


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