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.


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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