Common stereotypes say men compete and women cooperate, but please, do you remember junior high? Women do compete; it’s just a matter of how.
In this study, researchers told subjects that they were playing a computerized game against two opponents. They offered three options: compete alone, create an alliance with one opponent (and shut out the third person) or cooperate with both opponents (and split the winnings three ways). By choosing to compete alone, women ran the risk of being excluded if the other two participants allied.
Turns out, women were more sensitive to the threat of being excluded.
When researchers explained that the other two could form an alliance, more women chose the alliance. But when researchers glossed over the possibility of exclusion, rates of choosing the alliance were the same between men and women.
In other words, when women thought they might be excluded, they pre-emptively excluded others.
So how do women compete? Results showed that women are more likely to use an “exclusionary alliance” when they feel threatened (think: “Mean Girls”), while men are more likely to directly dominate an opponent.