Men are prone to make black-or-white judgements when making decisions, while women are more inclined to see shades of grey, according to a study from Warwick University.
This means that the former gender appear more suited to work environments that require decisive action, while the latter are likely to be more effective in occupations where a considered approach is more important.
These are the findings of a research paper entitled ‘Sex Differences in Semantic Categorization’, which is about to be published in the Archives of Sexual Behaviour.
The study was based around work with 113 people who were asked whether 50 objects fitted into certain categories partially, fully or not at all. The objects chosen were felt likely to stimulate debate or disagreement and questions included ‘Is a tomato a fruit?’ and ‘Is paint a tool?’
The researchers found that men were more likely to be definite in assigning objects to a given category, whereas women made less clear-cut judgements, for example, indicating that a tomato could ‘sort of’ be classed as a fruit. Females were, in fact, 23% more likely to assign an object to the ‘partial’ category than their male counterparts.
Dr Zachary Estes, a psychologist at the University Warwick and member of the research team, said: “Of course, simply because we have found a significant sex difference in how men and women categorise does not mean that one method is intrinsically better than the other.”
For example, he indicated that, while male doctors may be more likely to diagnose a set of symptoms as a disease quickly and confidently, which brought benefits in treating disease early, there were, on the other hand, “massive disadvantages” if the diagnosis was incorrect, he added.
“In many cases, a more open approach to categorising or diagnosing would be more effective,” Estes said.
The researchers, which included Vickie Pasterski and Karolina Zwierzynska, believe that this is the first time that a difference in the way the genders categorise objects has been demonstrated experimentally.