Why women choke under pressure more than men do.

How the dismal science applies to your life.
Feb. 9 2007 1:06 PM

Women Are Chokers

Studies show they cave under pressure. Why?

(Continued from Page 1)

In spirit, that seems opposite to what professor Paserman is telling us. Women in championship tennis tournaments are always pitted against women, so based on the maze research you'd expect heightened performance—and it's a reasonable guess that when the competition gets tougher, performance should get even better.

But of course there's no real contradiction here: It's perfectly possible that same-sex competition in general improves women's performance, while extremely tight competition degrades it. And of course, these are very different populations of women. The subjects in the maze experiments were engineering students at first-class universities, which is to say they were a pretty elite bunch. But that's still a far cry from being a world-class tennis player.

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And of course, just as tennis players differ from engineering students, both groups differ from scientists and business executives. So it would be a bit of a stretch to conclude that what happens on the tennis court must happen in the boardroom or the biology lab. But it might be worth looking into.

Steven E. Landsburg is the author, most recently, ofMore Sex Is Safer Sex: The Unconventional Wisdom of Economics. You can e-mail him at armchair@landsburg.com.

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