“Women form social networks more selectively and less opportunistically than men” by Paul Seabright
Toulouse Scohool of Economics
We test two hypotheses, based on sexual selection theory, about gender differences in costly social interactions. Differential Selectivity predicts that women invest less than men in an interaction with a new partner, other things equal. Differential Opportunism predicts that women's investment in a social interaction is less responsive to information about the likely economic payoff to that investment. Both hypotheses imply differences in the social networks formed by women and men. 363 student newcomers to Frankfurt University were matched randomly over two rounds with a partner to play a trust game. In the second round of the trust game they also had the chance to invite a new partner to play. We find evidence in favor of both hypotheses. In particular, women invest less in new partners in both rounds, and invest even less in a framing treatment that reminds them of the need to reflect on the decision. They also react less elastically to their a priori beliefs about the likely returns to their investment, and to information that is revealed at the beginning of the second round about the return to the amounts sent to their previous partner. We investigate subsequent formation of real social connections by the student newcomers and find evidence of gender differences in real behavior consistent with the behavior observed in the lab.