Open Journal of Social Sciences, 2014, 2, 30-33
Published Online March 2014 in SciRes. http://www.scirp.org/journal/jss
How to cite this paper: Deng, Q. and Ji, S.B. (2014) The Role of Gender in Individual and Group Decision Making: A Re-
search Model. Open Journal of Social Sciences, 2, 30-33. http://dx.doi.org/10.4236/jss.2014.23006
The Role of Gender in Individual and Group
Decision Making: A Research Model
Qi Deng, Shaobo Ji
Sprott School of Business, Carleton University, Ottawa, Canada
Email: qiden g3@cmail .carleto n.ca, firstname.lastname@example.org
Received Dec emb er 2013
Confronting with numerous investment choices, investors, either individual or group, invariably
need to make the decision under some level of risk. Therefore, it is important to assess the risk at-
titudes and to examine the diversity of risk attitudes among different decision makers. In this pa-
per, we focus on the risk preferences of male and female at both the individual and the group le-
vels. We propose a conceptual model to examine three questions: 1) Does gender difference have
an impact on individual decision making under risk? 2) Does decision context (individual decision
vs. group decision) influence the decision making under risk? 3) Does the gender composition af-
fect the risk preference of group decision making? Accordingly, a number of research hypotheses
are proposed and are recommended to be tested using lottery-choice experiments.
Individual and Group Decision Making; Gender Difference; Risk Preference
There are three types of problem: simple, complicated and complex problems . Investment decision making,
which invariably invol ve s some uncertainty, is a complex problem. There are numerous variables, both known
and unknown, to consider in investment decision. Often, the decision is a result of a strenuous effort exercised
between one’s expectations and preferences. Individual differences, in the form of demographics, psychological
traits, and even physiology, and their impacts on decision makings have long been recognized and researched
. Among many, gender difference has gained a lot of attentions because of the increasingly participation of
women in business and investment decisions. In addition, decision making in group context has also been paid
attention among researchers due to greater emphasis of collective, group oriented work environment. This paper
aims to examine the role of gender and group gender composition in decision making. A research model and a
number of research hypotheses are derived based on reviews of previous studies.
2. Individual and Group Decision Making
At individual level, decision making, especially under uncertainty, is a complex mental process given that both
cognitive and emotional factors are involved . It has been argued that individual decision making under risk
Q. Deng, S. B. Ji
can be seen as the outcome of the confrontation between expectations and preference . Many models have
been constructed to describe the decision making [5-7]. In addition, many demographic factors have been ex-
amined in previous studies, e.g., gender [8,9], age , past experience , social context  and learning
. For instance, in , two experiments were conducted to investigate gender differences in risk taking beha-
vior, using a computerized military game. It was found that females showed lower risk preference than males
when subjects repeated a previously undertaken task. Reported in , it was found that female entrepreneurs
are less willing than male entrepreneurs to become involved in situations with uncertain outcomes. By dividing
the decision makers into two groups, a “non-managerial” group in which the majority of individuals have not
undergone formal management education and a “managerial” population of potential and actual managers who
have undertaken such education, and examining the betting behaviors in these two groups, Johnson and Powell
 found a lower preference for risk amongst women in the “non-managerial” group. Similarly, Levin, Snyder,
& Chapman  reported a lower risk preference amongst women in their experiment on gambling. Further-
more, strong evidences that females are less inclined to take risks than males have been found in both the gener-
al and business literatures [16-20].
Compared with individual level, it is found that decision by group is different from decision by individual,
especially when decision is under risk . Many studies have been conducted to explain this phenomenon and
explanations have been offered. For instance, it is possible that individual choice preferences change when
people act in groups because of the responsibility diffusion , cultural values of group , and individual
familiarity with the decision problem . Members who are greater risk takers may exert stronger influence
within the group more than others . In addition, some studies have suggested that groups are more
risk-averse in lotteries with low probabilities of winning the largest payoffs, but less risk-averse when these
probabilities are high [26-28]. Moreover, groups are found to have a smaller variance in their risk preferences
than individuals. Interest in group decision making has been extended to include size and gender composition,
e.g., couples [29,30], female only groups , and mixed-gender teams . In general, it was found that
groups are more rational and risk neutral agents than single individuals .
3. Research Model and Research Hypotheses
In this paper, the role of gender in individual and group decision making under risk is examined. On the basis of
the literature review, a research model is proposed, as shown in Figure 1. In this model, individual and group
represent different decision contexts. Individual represents a decision context in which decisions are made by
single decision maker and the decision maker take full responsibility for outcomes. Group stands for a decision
context in which decisions are made by group members and every group can only make one unanimous decision
for every question. Outcomes, as well as responsibilities, of decisions made by group will be equally shared by
every group member. It is argued that risk preference is affected by gender, group, as well as group gender
composition. For individual decision making, risk preferences will be examined by gender. For group decision
making context, three-member groups will be formed with various gender composition combinations. For ex-
ample, shown in Figure 1 under the label of Group, A (3, 0) represents a group with 3-male and 0-female
members; B (2, 1) represents a group with 2-male and 1-female members; C (1, 2) represents a group with 1-
male and 2-female members; and D (0, 3) represents a group with 0-male and 3-female members. It is specu-
lated and assumed that an individual’s risk preference is an indicator of attitude toward risk. The proposed mod-
el is based on an underlying hypothesis that no obstacles exist between risk preference and risk decision making
so that risk preference could be indicated by the count of risk decisions made by decision makers. The relation-
ship between decision context and risk preference can be divided into three levels, which we elaborate by pro-
posing several primary hypotheses as follows.
At the individual level, we speculate that male is more risk seeking that female. Hence, the following hypo-
Figure 1. Gender and group in decision making.
Q. Deng, S. B. Ji
thesis is proposed: Male is more risk-seeking than female (H1). At the group level, to test the role of gender and
gender composition in group, a three-member group is proposed and its risk preference is measured as a group.
Due to the requirement of unanimity, group risk preference will not be a simple sum of group members’ risk
preferences. Rather, potential interactions between group members make the group decision making more com-
plicated than individual decision making. Similar to the articulation in Hypothesis 1, the following hypothesis is
proposed with regard to gender and gender composition in group context: Group risk preference increases with
the percentage of male group members (H2). To assess the difference of risk preference between individual and
group, two comparisons will be conducted, i.e., male individual vs. all male group, and female individual vs. all
female group. As discussed in Section 2, the following hypotheses are formulated with regard to the compari-
sons between individual and group’s risk preference when gender and gender composition of a group are consi-
dered. Group is more risk-averse than individual (H3.1); all male group is more risk-averse than male individual
(H3.2); and all female group is more risk-averse than female individual (H3.3).
4. Research Design
Because of the difficulty in observing and identifying group decision making under risk with field research or
the lack of field data, most studies used laboratory experiments to explore group decision making under risk.
The lottery-choice experiments have been used to measure risk preference in many studies [26,28] and could be
used to test the hypotheses for the proposed study. In a lottery-choice experiment, a menu of ten lottery-choice
decisions is designed to assess the risk preference. Each decision represents a choice between a relatively “safe”
lottery and a more “risky” lottery. The probability of the hig h-payoff outcome increases in 10% increments from
10% in the first decision to 100% in the last decision, while payoffs are identical in all ten lottery-choice deci-
sions. In each decision, the subjects (either individual or group) will be asked to choose which lottery he pre-
ferred to play. The total number of safe lottery choices is used as a measurement of a subject’s risk reference.
Through comparing it with the risk-neutral benchmark of choosing the lottery with the highest expected mone-
tary payoff for all probabilities, one can identify whether a subject is risk averse or risk seeking.
Although the impact of gender on individual decision making has been studied for many years, gender differ-
ences at group levels have not been examined extensively. The study proposes to explore the impact of gender
on group decision making by introducing the concept of gender composition in group. The proposed study is de-
signed draw inferences on the external validity of earlier studies by keeping the subject pool comparable to some
earlier studies with three-person groups. Practically, the findings of the proposed research will provide some
evidences for organizations to consider in terms of decision maker’s gender, and team composition.
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