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New Research Shows Men Tend To Leap To Judgement Where Women See More Shades Of Grey

April 18, 2011

An experiment by researchers at the University of Warwick has found the first real evidence that men tend to make black-or-white judgements when women are more prone to see shades of grey in choices and decisions.

The research paper, entitled Sex Differences in Semantic Categorization, is about to be published in the Archives of Sexual Behavior. Authors Vickie Pasterski, Karolina Zwierzynska, and Zachary Estes are all from the Department of Psychology at the University of Warwick.

The researchers asked 113 people whether each of 50 objects fitted partially, fully, or not at all into certain categories. The 50 objects were ones likely to stimulate debate or disagreement about which category they fitted into. For instance:

Is a tomato a fruit?

Is paint a tool?

The researchers found that men were more likely to make absolute category judgments (e.g., a tomato is either a fruit or not), whereas women made less certain category judgments (e.g., a tomato can “sort of” belong in the fruit category). The women surveyed tended to be much more nuanced in their responses and were 23% more likely to assign an object to the “partial” category.

While it has been a popular belief that such a male/female split exists, as far as the researchers are aware, this is the first time such a sex difference in categorization has been shown experimentally.

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