Women Are More Likely To Opt For "Maybe"

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"Is paint a tool?" This sounds like the start of a three-hour argument between stoned college students, but it's actually a question scientists asked groups of men and women. And apparently, ladies were more likely to answer "sort of."


Researchers at the University of Warwick asked 113 people whether 50 objects belonged "partially, fully, or not at all" into various categories. The questions were designed to be controversial — in addition to the paint one, scientists asked, "Is a tomato a fruit?" They found that women were 23% more likely to say the objects "partially" belonged in the categories. But that's okay, says study author Zachary Estes:

[S]imply because we have found a significant sex difference in how men and women categorize does not mean that one method is intrinsically better than the other. For instance, male doctors may be more likely to quickly and confidently diagnose a set of symptoms as a disease. Although this brings great advantages in treating diseases early, it obviously has massive disadvantages if the diagnosis is actually wrong. In many cases, a more open approach to categorizing or diagnosing would be more effective.

The "more open approach" is also effective when it comes to tomatoes, which are "sort of" a fruit. I'm guessing "fruit in the lab, vegetable in the kitchen" wasn't a choice in the study, meaning that the "partial" response really was the most correct one available. That said, it's perhaps not a surprise that women are more likely to equivocate when given controversial questions — in classrooms, boardrooms, and elsewhere, we're under more pressure to please everybody and avoid stepping on toes. Sometimes said equivocation can help reveal the complexities of a situation, but sometimes it can put us at a disadvantage. And while somebody's got to stand up for the quasi-fruitness of tomatoes, it would also be nice if women felt comfortable stating categorically that paint is not a tool.

Men Leap, Women Look When Deciding [Futurity.org]

Image via GWImages/Shutterstock.com



I don't think it's a matter of "feeling comfortable." Paint can be used to decorate, or to create directional lines in a road. Is the latter a "tool"? Why not?