A new study in The Economic Journal finds that likability is an influencing factor in interactions between women, as well as interactions between men and women, but not in all-male interactions.
The researchers conducted experiments where participants rated the likability of other participants, based on photographs. The participants were divided into pairs, shown the photograph of their partner beforehand, and learned how their partner rated them. The pairs then played games with each other where rewards depended on the degree of cooperation.
In one version, participants chose to contribute any integer value out of an initial endowment of 6 euros to a joint project. Overall, men contributed on average 4.05 euros, and women contributed 3.92 euros. Researchers found that in same-sex pairings, men in low as well as high mutual likability teams contributed similar amounts, suggesting likability was not a factor in determining contribution. However, if mutual likability in all-female teams was low, women contributed 30% less on average.
In mixed-sex pairings for the cooperation game, female participants contributed on average 4.70 euros in high mutual likability teams, and about 37% less in low mutual likability teams. In contrast to same-sex teams, the likability effect for men factored in mixed-sex teams. If mutual likability was low, men’s contribution was 50% lower than if mutual likability was high.
In the ten-round coordination game, researchers found that women in same-sex pairings chose significantly lower numbers in low mutual likability teams than in high mutual likability teams in each round of the game. Male participants in same-sex pairings chose high numbers from the start, regardless of the level of mutual likability. In mixed-sex teams, mutual likability was on average positively associated with the number chosen for both women and men.
“Our results hint at the existence of a likability factor that offers a novel perspective on gender differences in labor market outcomes,” said Leonie Gerhards, the paper’s lead author. “While likability matters for women in every one of their interactions, it matters for men only if they interact with the opposite sex.”
Researchers concluded that for women, likability is an asset in all interactions. For men, likability matters only in interactions with the opposite sex. Results suggest that the likability factor leads to considerable advantages in terms of average performance and economic outcomes for men.
Reference: “I (Don’t) Like You! But Who Cares? Gender Differences in Same-Sex and Mixed-Sex Teams” by Leonie Gerhards and Michael Kosfeld, 28 January 2020, The Economic Journal.