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.”


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


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


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


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.

science minded

Are macho- men "short-sighted" or blind to reality. Look at Romney, for instance. He surely fits the bill of a man so intoxicated with himself that he will do anything and everything to win this election- except the right thing which is to serve a cause. The real danger of becoming an actor is to feel no responsibility at all for what one says or does. In other words, it;s ok to change your position daily depending upon what state you are in and the people you are trying to appeal to. Never mind- real convictions.

Look at what seems to be going on with the vote. I have no illusions when it comes to all these people who may be disenfranchised and hope that the winner wins fair and square. For the first time in many years, I am planning to march- if the election has been rigged. As I have said before, there are two types of "deadly sins" in politics- "lack of objectivity" and "irresponsibility"/ Ronmey reminds me of a demagogue who is "compelled to count upon effect" here the effect of a huge amount of money upon winning an election. One news reporter today acknowleged that few people read the wall Street journal intelligently- so my guess, R is counting on money (not thinking and knowledgeable voters) winning him this election. He must think ordinary folk are stupid and don't see through "his' winning at all costs mentality. In other words, he does not have to do very much but create negative ads that appeal to emotions, rather than to intelligences. If that is the case, it will be a very sad day in American history-



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

Dave Gonzalez

This study is garbage. It's just another attack on men. Now these "psychologists" are blaming the financial crisis on the alpha male? How ridiculous. Honorable men, truly secure in their identities and worthy of respect, do not feel threatened. Honorable men do not take undue risk while under attack. If anything, when the perceived threats are significant and pervasive, real men reduce their exposure to risk. Real men have a strong appreciation for their fiduciary duties and the risks associated with making those decisions. Successful investment professionals do not gamble. They manage risk wherever possible.


Can you back any of that up? With... anything?

Shane L

Ah, remembering my old school days now! As teenagers many of us were very insecure, and most of my male classmates responded to this with quite aggressive machismo and high-risk behaviour. I suspect this machismo prompted further insecurity and fear as boys felt the increased aggression from their peers and became more aggressive and abusive in response: a vicious circle.

Perhaps one reason for the lower levels of violent crime by men as they grow older is down to a decreased sense of threat to their masculinity as they age?


caution 'This hand cream make you myopic and more prone to take risks'


Based on the summary, this appears to be a study of whether or not 19 well-moisturized male university students would be more willing than their white-knuckled counterparts to bet $1 on 5 dice rolls. Extrapolate at your own risk.


I learned this unintentionally at a Mexican restaurant with my husband. We had fajitas which come with an extremely hot pepper (which I knew from visiting with a friend previously). Not thinking (having had a margarita) I said "I wouldn't eat the pepper, it's extremely hot." When he looked inquisitive, I said "Don't worry, I don't know anyone man enough to eat that pepper." He ate the whole thing, sweating the whole time.