Sunday, October 26, 2014

#PowertotheMeek, with some reservations

A little over a weak ago, a NYT opinion piece reported some studies according to which women tend to take better decisions under stress (“Are Women Better Decision Makers?”). Apparently, this advantage comes mostly from a tendency among men to take silly risks when stressed out. Under such conditions, women remain better attuned to others – and, apparently, to their own gut feelings. In one of the experiments, they performed better on a version of the famous Iowa Gambling Task. In fact, it could just be the case that it is individuals with better calibrated empathy and visceral sensitivity – as opposed to those detached and supremely cool – who make better decisions under stress. And, for some mysterious – mostly biological – reasons most of these individuals happen to be women. So much for the much vaunted superior self-confidence of men – which women are now often prodded to embrace in order to get ahead in the ever accelerating rat race.

All this reminds me of the title of an ancient book which is not universally admired among feminists, “The Natural Superiority of Women.” Of course, the “labor” market knows better. There may be some cosmic justice, though, even there. A more recent piece in the “Wealth” section of the NYT (“How to Gladden a Wealthy Mind”) refers to studies according to which climbing the economic ladder to levels above $ 75,000 can backfire, producing excessive levels of stress and burnout. Needless to say, positive and other psychologists are working hard to help high earners achieve sustainable happiness. Soon, there will be some marketable neural interventions (to say nothing of countless apps) aimed at achieving the same effect. So the meek may not inherit the Earth, after all…