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Black and white or shades of grey? Decide!

Thu 19 January 2012

, LEAP redaktie, LEAP

An experiment by researchers at the University of Warwick has found evidence that men tend to make black-or-white judgements when women are more prone to see shades of grey in choices and decisions. This might be helpful in a lot of situations but on the other hand you sometimes need to make a quick decision. Know what you want and go for it.

The researchers of the University of Warwick 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? And Is paint a tool? Sex Differences in Semantic Categorization, found that man  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. While they say explicitly that one method is not always better than the other, it might be  handy to be able to decide fast in some situations.  This can only b done if you have a clear idea of what you want as an outcome.

Power of Choice
In interview with Lisa Quast on Forbes, Michael Hyter, author of the book, The Power of Choice emphasizes that women should know what they want to achieve.
Hyter: “Being clear about desired outcomes also helps you make good decisions when you’re presented with a variety of career choices. You can be thoughtful and deliberate about which opportunities will take you where you want to go, and which are just a drain on your time and energy.

Many women have been so socialized to focus on the needs of others – their spouse, family, friends, manager, work team, company – that they don’t take the time to really think about what’s important to them. Women can’t be all things to all people without burning out or collapsing from exhaustion. The clearer you are about what’s important to you, the better able you are to choose where you will focus your energy. The more actively you accept that there must be trade-offs, the less guilty you feel when you experience them.”

Being clear in your own priorities helps too. It will take away some of  the tensions between the different demands work and life ask from us, says Hyder: “I recommend that women think of this less as an issue of balance and more a challenge of integration. It’s unrealistic that there is ever a real balance between professional and personal demands. It’s important to build the kind of life that’s most important to you. There will be benefits and trade-offs in the pursuit of any goal. Be intentional about putting your energy in the areas that are most important to you.”