Gender, Stereotypes, and Trust in Communication

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Gender differences in dishonesty and mistrust have been reported across cultures and linked to stereotypes about females being more trustworthy and trusting. Here we focus on fundamental issues of trust-based communication that may be affected by gender: the decisions whether to honestly deliver private information and whether to trust that this delivered information is honest. Using laboratory experiments that model trust-based strategic communication and response, we examined the relationship between gender, gender stereotypes, and gender discriminative lies and challenges. Drawing from a student sample, we presented males and females (N = 80) with incentivized stereotype elicitation tasks that reveal their expectations of lies and challenges from each gender, followed by a series of strategic communication interactions within and between genders. Before interacting, both genders stereotyped females as more trustworthy (expected to send more honest messages) and more trusting (expected to accept and not challenge others’ messages) than males, in accord with cross-cultural gender differences. In best response to these stereotypes, both genders discriminately accepted or challenged messages based on the sender’s gender. However, we find no differences between males’ and females’ overall rates of lies and challenges. After learning the results of their strategic interactions, males and females revised their stereotypes about lies and challenges expected of each gender; these stereotype revisions resulted in greater predictive accuracy and less disparate gender discrimination. This suggests an important facultative feature of human trust-based communication and gender stereotyping: while the delivery and trust of private information is informed by gender stereotypes, these stereotypes are recalibrated with experience.


This article was originally published in Human Nature in 2020.

The link above is to a free read-only version of the article.

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