Brave boys and play-it-safe girls: gender differences in willingness to guess in a large-scale natural field experiment
ESADE, Department of Economics, Finance and Accounting
Economics, Experimental Economics
Multiple-choice tests are extensively used to measure individuals’ knowledge and aptitudes. We studied gender differences in willingness to guess using approximately 10,000 multiple-choice math tests, where, for all participants, in half of the questions, omitted answers were rewarded, while for the other half, they scored the same as wrong answers. Using within-participant regression analysis, we show that female participants leave significantly more omitted questions than males when there is a reward for omitted questions. This gender difference, which is stronger among high ability and older participants, hurts female performance as measured by the final score and position in the ranking. We conclude that it is important to use gender-neutral scoring rules that do not differentiate between wrong answers and omitted questions in order to accurately measure individuals’ knowledge and aptitudes.
We study a large math multiple choice competition in which high school students compete for prizes. By varying the penalty imposed over wrong answers, we can study the differential effect of boys and girls in their answering patterns and, as a consequence, who wins the competition.
How is Gender integrated in this Research
The whole purpose of the study is to check the inefficiencies in winner selection of different ways of grading multiple choice exams. The gender perspective is inherent to the project.
What could be done differently
We conclude that it is important to use gender-neutral scoring rules that do not differentiate between wrong answers and omitted questions in order to accurately measure individuals’ knowledge and aptitudes.
Key Learning Points
The main difficulties in studying this issue are:
- Convincing institutions that controlled experimental research is crucial to answer this question, an that observational evidence is not enough.
- Convincing educational institutions that penalties and rewards for wrong answers create gender differential unfairness
Resources to explore