Gender differences in cooperation with group membership

Gary Charness, Aldo Rustichini

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

67 Scopus citations


We study experimentally how males and females differ in the way same-gender peers observing their action affects their social behavior. In our experiment, people play a Prisoner's Dilemma game with a partisan audience watching the choice. Two groups participated in each session; these groups could be both all-male, both all-female, or one all-male and one all-female. Groups were separated into two rooms. Each person in the group played the game once with an audience of the same group and once with audience of the other group. Behavior is significantly affected by the interaction of gender and place: males cooperate substantially less often when observed by their peer group, while females cooperate substantially more often. We discuss a possible explanation for this pattern: Males and females wish to signal their in-group peers, but males wish to signal their formidability and females wish to signal their cooperativeness.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)77-85
Number of pages9
JournalGames and Economic Behavior
Issue number1
StatePublished - May 2011

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
We thank Leda Cosmides, Andrew Delton, Daniel Fessler, Melanie MacEacheron, Karthik Panchanathan, seminar participants at the UCLA Behavior, Culture, and Evolution, and two anonymous referees for very helpful comments. Charness acknowledges research support from the Institute for Social and Behavioral Economics Research at UCSB, and Rustichini acknowledges research support from NSF grant SES-0924896.


  • Cooperation
  • Gender differences
  • Group membership


Dive into the research topics of 'Gender differences in cooperation with group membership'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this