Sex differences and statistical stereotyping in attitudes toward financial risk

Catherine C. Eckel, Philip J. Grossman

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565 Citations (Scopus)


Subjects in a laboratory experiment completed the Zuckerman Sensation-Seeking Scale (SSS) then chose among five alternative gambles with substantial financial stakes. The gambles differed in expected return and variance. Gambles were presented in one of two different frames in a between-subjects design. In one, subjects were paid a fixed sum for completing the survey and that sum was then at risk in the subsequent gamble choices. In the other, all payoff amounts for the gambles were nonnegative. Subjects were paid according to their choices and the outcomes of the gambles. We tested for sex differences in this choice task and found women to be consistently more risk averse, on average, than men. We observed no difference across frames. Subjects were then asked to guess the gamble choices of each of the other participants and were rewarded for each correct answer. Subjects of both sexes did substantially better than chance in guessing the particular choices of individuals of both sexes, but both men and women overestimated the risk aversion of others, especially that of women, and most strongly of all with respect to men's predictions of women's choices. Possible real-world implications of biased assumptions about women's risk attitudes are discussed.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)281-295
Number of pages15
JournalEvolution and Human Behavior
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 10 Jul 2002


  • Gambles
  • Risk
  • Sensation-seeking
  • Sex differences
  • Stereotyping

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