SAN FRANCISCO Risky situations increase anxiety for women but not for men, leading women to perform worse under these circumstances, finds a study to be presented at the 109th Annual Meeting of the American Sociological Association.
"On the surface, risky situations may not appear to be particularly disadvantageous to women, but these findings suggest otherwise," said study author Susan R. Fisk, a doctoral candidate in sociology at Stanford University, who defines a risky situation as any setting with an uncertain outcome in which there can be both positive or negative results, depending on some combination of skill and chance.
According to Fisk, people often think of an extreme physical or financial risk when they think about a "risky situation." Yet, in reality, people encounter risky situations all of the time. Fisk cites raising one's hand to offer an idea at a meeting full of judgmental co-workers, giving a boss feedback on his or her performance, and volunteering for a difficult workplace assignment as examples of risky situations.
In her mixed methods study, Fisk relies on data from three sources: two experiments and test scores from an engineering course at a selective private university on the West Coast of the United States.
The goal of the first experiment, which was conducted online using U.S. adults ranging in age from 18 to 81, was to determine whether risky workplace situations increased the anxiety of women and men. In this experiment, participants were given one of four scenarios presented in either a risky or non-risky way. For instance, participants who were asked to imagine a work-related group meeting were either told that the other members of the group understood that bad ideas were part of the brain-storming process (the non-risky framing) or that the other group members were extremely judgmental of bad ideas (the risky framing).
After reading their scenario, participants were asked t
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American Sociological Association