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Perceptual asymmetry in gendered group decision making

Rebecca J Hannagan, University of Nebraska - Lincoln


Does the gender composition of a group affect decision making? Small groups are a primary arena in which political behavior takes place; behavior such as coalition formation and status competition. There are reasons to believe that the number of males and females in a group might affect the process of decision making as well as the outcomes. The literature to date suggests that males and females have distinctly different preferences and behavioral tendencies and perceive decision making scenarios differently due to the socialization of traditional gender roles. I propose an alternative explanation for the source of gendered preferences and behavioral predispositions---an evolutionary biological explanation. Within this framework, both innate biological features and socialization give rise to gender differences in perceptions, preferences and behavior. It is not nature versus nurture but both that best explain group decision making behavior. From this conceptual framework I suggest a number of hypotheses and test them using original laboratory experiments. ^ My experimental results show that group gender composition does play a significant and substantive role in decision making. This role, however, is more subtle than has been portrayed in the existing literature. Group gender composition seems to exert a systematic influence in shaping individual preferences. There is at least some empirical support for the claim that this influence affects males and females differently---male preferences seem to be more sensitive to gendered groups. Multivariate path analyses provide an indication that the statistical relationships in the data are consistent with the relationships specified by my conceptual model. ^ There are important links between the behavioral predispositions of males and females and the decisions that arise from the groups or communities they make up that are not well understood. The relationship between individual preferences and predispositions and group or community-level outcomes are complex and dynamic, and often avoided by researchers who prefer to focus on individual level analyses. I believe the study of political behavior is ultimately about attempting to unravel the individual cognitive processes and the mediating effects of group contexts that lead to group outcomes. This dissertation is a contribution to that endeavor.^

Subject Area

Psychology, Social|Women's Studies|Political Science, General

Recommended Citation

Hannagan, Rebecca J, "Perceptual asymmetry in gendered group decision making" (2006). ETD collection for University of Nebraska - Lincoln. AAI3229556.