Risk-Taking in Single- and Mixed-Gender Environments

I found this post, The Case for Single-Sex Trading Floors, on one of my favorite blogs, Infectious Greed by Paul Kedrosky. It discusses a recent article in the Journal of Economic Psychology (there’s a specialized field, for you) entitled Are People More Risk-Taking in the Presence of the Opposite Sex.

The basic answer appears to be “yes,” in both males and females. Interestingly, “attractiveness” apparently had nothing to do with it.

Excerpt:

Both males and females viewing opposite sex photos displayed a significant increase in risk tolerance, whereas the control subjects exhibited no significant change. Surprisingly, the attractiveness of the photo had no effect; subjects viewing photographs of attractive opposite sex persons displayed similar results as those viewing photographs of unattractive people.

I’d love to know by what standard they decided attractiveness — I once read that facial symmetry has a huge impact — but I digress.

Offering an anecdote supporting the increased risk-taking theory, I have a (male) friend who insists on working with female personal trainers, but who keeps injuring himself during his training sessions. Perhaps, this study suggests, he’d be better off using a male trainer instead, and presumably taking less risk (i.e., pushing himself less) on his exercises.

I think the study also raises interesting questions about same-sex schools, adding yet another variable to the already complex pro/con mix.

As a final aside, now that greed isn’t as infectious as it once was, perhaps Paul Kedrosky should consider a new name for his blog. I recently heard a great quote from Chris Pilling of Complinet: “trust is the new greed.” Paul Kedrosky’s Infectious Trust? Perhaps not.

We will now resume our regular programming in XML, enterprise search, relational database, and semi- and unstructured information management.

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