Forbes.com has a new article up titled: Men Cooperate More with Each Other than Women Do (H/T Uncle Elmer). The article is by Victoria Pynchon, who is responding to a meta analysis of studies which looked at the differences in cooperation between men and women. The press release for the study which found that men and women have different patterns of cooperation is helpfully titled: Men and Women Cooperate Equally for the Common Good. Of course. What else could they have titled it? Here is the key finding from the meta analysis:
While there was no statistical difference between the sexes when it came to cooperating when faced with a social dilemma, when the researchers drilled down they did find some differences. Specifically, women were more cooperative than men in mixed-sex studies and men became more cooperative than women in same-sex studies and when the social dilemma was repeated.
The lead author of the study offers an explanation for why men are more cooperative with each other than women:
“The argument is that throughout human evolutionary history, male coalitions have been an effective strategy for men to acquire resources, such as food and property,” said Balliet. “Both hunting and warfare are social dilemmas in that they firmly pit individual and group interests against each other. Yet, if everyone acts upon their immediate self-interest, then no food will be provided, and wars will be lost. To overcome such social dilemmas requires strategies to cooperate with each other.”
Evolutionary theory may also explain why women are less cooperative with other women when faced with a social dilemma, according to Balliet. “Ancestral women usually migrated between groups and they would have been interacting mostly with women who tended not to be relatives, and many were co-wives,” he said. “Social dynamics among women would have been rife with sexual competition.”
The Forbes author concludes that since the differences between men and women are biological, this is something women can fix:
There you have it, ladies. Proof that we are more competitive with one another than we are with men. This explains so much, including the bitter complaints of women in business and the professions about the lack of support they feel from their female colleagues.
This is something we can change. It is completely within our control. And if you say, I’m cooperative but she’s a bitch, then you have some conflict resolution work to do.
Makes sense to me. You ladies should get right on that. I’d offer to help, but it would be sexist of me to do so.
What they were looking at is a series of studies involving the prisoner’s dilemma. This is classic Game Theory (think Nash, not Mystery) and it involves the ability of multiple individuals to have enough trust to cooperate when there is an incentive for cheating. If one party convinces the other to cooperate, and then cheats, the cheater wins big and the sucker loses. If both parties cheat, they both lose. If both cooperate, they both win modestly.
Crucial to this process is to be able to trust the other party. Being trusting in the face of treachery means failure; if you can’t trust your partner you may as well cheat. But both cooperating is a better mutual outcome than both cheating, so if trust can be achieved then both parties win.
So what does this really mean when we strip away the feminist doublespeak? Both men and women were more willing to trust a man not to sell them out. Women didn’t trust women. Men didn’t trust women. Men trusted other men. Women trusted men.
Is it even possible the academics who did the study didn’t understand this?