Room Composition Effects on Risk Taking by Gender (R&R Exp.Econ)

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We present evidence of a direct social context effect on decision-making under uncertainty: the gender composition of those in the room when making individual risky decisions significantly alters choices even when the actions or presence of others are not payoff relevant. In our environment, decision makers do not know the choices made by others, nor can they be inferred from the experiment. We find that women become more risk taking as the proportion of men in the room increases, but the behavior of men is unaffected by who is present. This is most consistent with women being aware of the social context and imitating the expected behavior of others. Our results imply that the environment in which individual decisions are made can change expressed preferences and that aggregate behavior may be context dependent. This is important for understanding behavior in organizations as well as how individual decisions may vary across environments.

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