Academic Study Finds That Adding Women to Decision-Making Groups Promotes Compromise

A new study by researchers at Boston College and the University of Pittsburgh finds that when women are part of a group making a decision, the group more easily reaches a compromise.

nikolovaHristina Nikolova, the Coughlin Sesquicentennial Assistant Professor of Marketing at Boston College’s Carroll School of Management and co-author of the study notes that “when men are in the presence of other men, they feel the need to prove their masculinity. Both tend to push away from the compromise option because it is consistent with feminine norms. On the other hand, extremism is a more masculine trait, so that’s why both male partners tend to prefer an extreme option when making decisions together.”

The authors conducted four studies with university students that included either one man and one woman or two men or two women. The groups were asked to make purchasing decisions on a wide range of items from toothpaste to stocks. The found that groups with two men tended not to make a choice that was a compromise between two extremes. But mixed-gendered groups and groups with two women tended to make arrive at a compromise decision. For example, Dr. Nikolova said that when “two men are choosing a car, and the cars they are considering differ on safety and fuel efficiency. They will either go for the safest car or the one that offers them the most fuel efficiency, but they won’t choose an option that offers a little of both. In contrast, individuals and mixed-gender and female-female pairs will likely go for the middle option since it seems reasonable and is easily justified.”

Dr. Nikolova is a graduate of Ramapo College in New Jersey. She holds a Ph.D. in marketing from the University of Pittsburgh.

The study, “Men and the Middle: Gender Differences in Dyadic Compromise Effects,” was published on the website of the Journal of Consumer Research. It was co-authored by Cait Lamberton, an associate professor pf marketing at the Katz School of Business at the University of Pittsburgh. The article may be accessed here.

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