Macho, Macho Men

(Photo: Ruthanne Reid)

New research (summarized in the BPS Research Digest) from psychologists Jonathan Weaver, Joseph Vandello, and Jennifer Bosson indicates that men whose masculinity is threatened become “myopic and more prone to take risks.” Here’s the abstract:

Among the conjectured causes of the recent U.S. financial crisis is the hyper-masculine culture of Wall Street that promotes extreme risk-taking. In two experiments, we found that threats to their manhood motivated men to take greater financial risks and favor immediate (vs. delayed) fiscal rewards. In Experiment 1, men placed larger bets during a gambling game after a gender threat as compared to men in an affirmation condition. In Experiment 2, after a gender threat, men pursued an immediate financial payoff rather than waiting for interest to accrue, but only if they believed their decision was public. When the decision was private, gender-threatened men did not show the same desire for immediate reward. These results suggest that gender threats may shift men’s financial decisions toward more risky and short-sighted public choices.

While the “manhood threats” employed in the experiment — product-testing a pink bottle of scented hand lotion and asking participants to “recall 10 examples of times they’d behaved like a ‘real man'” — are presumably quite different from those faced by men in banking/trading environments, the researchers believe their results have broader implications.  “Whether manhood threats were directly implicated in the recent financial crises that continue to plague the U.S. [and U.K.] economy, the current findings are at least consistent with such an interpretation,” they write. “Certainly, they are suggestive enough to warrant further investigation into this critically important question.”

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  1. Nathan says:

    There is an eye-opening book that goes into more detail about masculinity/manhood issues facing especially young men in our times called “Guyland” by Michael S Kimmel

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  2. frankenduf says:

    in experiment 3, men were given hand lotion and a cash bonus of $200,000 to take greater financial risks, and they all did except for one guy who had an allergic reaction to the lotion

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  3. Lew says:

    New banking regulation coming – no one is allowed to call any male working for a bank a pu$$y.

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  4. Travis says:

    All I can seem to think is “Feminists are going to have a field day with this.”

    I also wonder if this issue of challenging or questioning the masculinity of a man is one of the reason there is so much male backlash against feminism that is so common.

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  5. science minded says:

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  6. AllyF says:

    So, this experiment demonstrates that reducing a man’s confidence in his masculinity leads him to greater risk taking behaviour, and it is claimed that this may have been a factor in the financial crisis.

    Imagine for a moment the results of the experiment had been the exact opposite – that making a man feel less masculine leads him to take fewer, smaller risks – what would this have told us about the financial crisis?

    I’m pretty confident we would all have jumped on it as evidence that it was an excess of masculinity that caused the crisis, wouldn’t we?

    Expanded on this at some length here.

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  7. Enter your name... says:

    On the “pink bottle”: Did they screen for color-blindness or at least verbally describe the bottle’s color to the participants?

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  8. Dave Gonzalez says:

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