Thursday, March 26, 2009

Why isn't there a woman on our blog?

Lately, there've been a few articles crossing my RSS about the differences between men and women--specifically differences in how we think. This is nothing new to either or the world. We've had this conversation, and it can become pretty heated.

Freakonomics cited an article today posing the question "Why didn't a woman write Freakonomics?" Or for that matter, why are women so underrepresented in current serious non-fiction books? Another blogger citing this blog asked why there are hardly any big-name female artists.

Over at the Frontal Cortex, Jonah Lehrer published an article today discussing differences between men and women, particularly with regards to rationality of thought and political decisions. He cites one study that compares the differences in investment strategy between single women, married men, and single women, and rates their rationality in that order. The study concluded:
What they found, in a nutshell, is that men not only trade more often than women but do so from a false faith in their own financial judgment.
It showed (perhaps rather dubiously), that people tended to invest more rationally if there's more female presence in their life (a single man being the least rational, and an actual woman being the most rational).

In a conversation about differences in decision making between men and women, she told me that she believes that men are more emotional and women are more "linear-logical." After some thought, I decided that I could buy into these classifications, but perhaps with some clarification. I believe that men tend to be more instinct oriented--or inclined to make gut decisions, where as women take a more rational route. I am not saying is that men are more emotionally intuitive or empathetic.

One place where I find this particular distinction evident is in playing games with women. Playing poker with men tends to get pretty heated. The great skill of a male poker player is to never go on tilt and to remain rational. Poker is, in the long run, a numbers game, and one's gut response is of negligible consideration. When I've played with women, they go directly to an analytical approach, and instead of running into the game, usually sit back and get a real feel for it. They build a somewhat mathematical model and shun knee-jerk reactions.

Another phenomenon that I've become increasingly aware of is men's love of arguing. Men love to fight--whether about philosophy, politics, sports, or tactics and strategy (I use these terms loosely, as in strategy for fixing the economy or strategy for writing a computer program). Men have long-lasting friendships where there are chronic arguments. These arguments, however, are usually predicated on two different intuitive views of a situation--men will fight about things forever, but in most cases about issues in which they have overblown confidence in their judgment.

I think this same intuitive decision making to which men are predisposed enables them to succeed strongly in academia. One must have a great deal of confidence in his position to write a book or in his perspective to create an art exhibit. This confidence can't result from a rational analysis--it must come from the gut, and must be disproportionally large compared to his actual acumen.

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