Up Front 05/11

The fact that men and women may occasionally think differently has been debated and researched for centuries, and no doubt it’s a subject that will keep many of us amused for years to come. But researchers at the University of Warwick have recently found evidence that men tend to make black-or-white judgments, when women are more prone to see shades of grey in choices and decisions. The researchers asked 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. Whilst most people will admit that this isn’t particularly new information, it’s the question of which is the better method of judgment that is still open to debate. University of Warwick psychologist Dr Zachary Estes pointed out for example that, male doctors may be more likely to quickly and confidently diagnose a set of symptoms as a disease and although this brings great advantages in treating diseases early, it obviously has massive disadvantages if the diagnosis is actually wrong. Dr Estes suggested that in many cases, a more open approach to categorizing or diagnosing would be more effective. Personally I think we should have turned left at the pub back there.