Stress increases the differences in how men and women think about risk, according to a newly published article in Current Directions in Psychological Science.
The article reviewed a number of previous studies that looked at how stress affects people when they’re making a decision. It seems that stress affects the way people assess risk and reward.
When it comes to stress and gender there are some surprising differences, said Mara Mather, a professor of gerontology and psychology at the University of Southern California who co-wrote the paper with Nichole R. Lighthall, a PhD student in her lab.
According to Mather, when men are under stress they are willing to take more risks and make decisions at a much faster pace than women. When women are under stress they tend to take fewer risks, choose more conservatively and take much longer to decide.
These differences were most surprising for Mather. “We almost never see gender differences in our lab, but these gender differences were really striking.…In these studies we found males and females didn’t differ in laboratory tasks when they weren’t under stress. But when they were under stress they diverged.”
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