I was recently asked a question at a conference where I was speaking…
“Do you think that women make decisions more from emotion and men more from reason?”
I gave a presentation recently at the In2:InThinking Conference on critical thinking. During one of the breaks I was asked this question by one of the attendees. Thank you Adam for the very interesting question!
The scientific evidence, and especially the work of Antonio Damasio, indicates that we cannot make decisions without emotion.
We Cannot Make Decisions without Emotion
Akio Morita, co-founder of Sony and the inventor of the Sony Walkman, was asked why he made the decision to go ahead with the Walkman when all the marketing research indicated that it was a terrible idea.
In their market research Sony had asked people if they would consider buying a personal tape player. People thought that walking around with wires hanging out of their ears was just plain stupid, and, what’s the good of a tape machine that doesn’t record?
But Morita did it anyway and it changed everything.
Morita said that he did it because after reviewing all the information he closed the folder and asked himself “How do I feel about it?” He felt good about it, and so he went ahead with the single greatest breakthrough in personal electronics of all time.
The Differences Between Men and Women
So that’s one thing. The other thing is that, while women and men do tend to think differently, we also think a lot the same, meaning that the difference is one of degree rather than kind.
If you plotted the way women think against the way men think and superimposed the curves, you’d see that the curves mostly overlap. The tails of the curve, the outliers, might be very different, but what we share is a lot.
There are some differences (differences of degree) that are worth noting. For example, research shows that men tend to look for what works immediately rather than what works in the long run, a strategy that had great survival value in the savannas and forests of our forebears.
Making an instantaneous decision often meant the difference between life or death, or eating or going hungry. So men tend to want immediate solutions.
Women, on the other hand, had a huge investment in their offspring, and so had a strong need for a relatively stable environment in which to raise their children. To this end, women tend to be systems thinkers, to look for long term solutions, and to consider the consequences of their actions down the line.
Having said all this, let me add that I’m more comfortable with the terms “feminine” and “masculine” as opposed to “women” and “men”, since both sexes think both ways.
We’re differentiating by ways of thinking, and the bottom line is that we need a real balance between masculine and feminine ways of thinking.
Right now we don’t have that balance in the world.
We need to somehow create a world where feminine traits and ways of thinking are valued as much as the masculine, where the long term good is as important as short term gains.