Gendered Decision Making

The decision-making process is critical across all levels of interpersonal relationships and leadership. It is a process through which leaders come against various forms of interest to take responsibility for future events. For instance, college students always make decisions throughout their schooling, which cumulatively affects their average grading point. When fairly unwanted outcomes such as failure to submit assignments because they went out partying on the weekend occur, students may be considered bad decision-makers. Nevertheless, this paper identifies that there is an ongoing debate that clusters decision-makers based on gender. For instance, a Harvard Business Review article explained that women are better decision-makers in boosting sensitivity (Benko & Pelster, 2013). Since Benko and Pelster (2013) do not back up their findings statistically, it is not adequate for making a significant conclusion. Thus, this study aims to nullify the hypothesis that women are better decision-makers than men.

The guiding research question is: Is there a gender difference in decision-making styles? There are five main decision-making styles: rational, intuitive, spontaneous, avoidant, and dependent (Delaney, Strough, Parker & Bruine de Bruin, 2015). Some scholars such as Jankelová (2017) have argued that decision making is strategic, as it involves making deliberate choices. In that perspective, decision-making styles are immune to the individuality of the decision-maker. Nevertheless, not all decision-making processes are similar, as they entail spectrums such as structure versus ambiguity, and task versus social. Concerning the latter, the nature of a task and the person’s social perception are likely to influence their decision-making style and societal feedback. For instance, studies have found that women are overrepresented in non-science subjects and are more responsive to negative feedback than men (Kugler, Tinsley & Ukhaneva, 2017; Dom & Yi, 2017). However, some women have deliberately chosen to study science and other complicated subjects and have garnered positive social feedback.

Therefore, this study is important because it will deconstruct stereotypes about preference and feedback for either gender, which concerns their styles in the decision-making process. It will analyze the five decision-making styles for college students to identify any statistically significant differences and or implications. Twenty students aged 18-25 will be recruited from a population of one hundred students invited through emails. The participants will be randomly chosen in both science and non-science departments regardless of their year of study. This study will utilize a semi-structured interview with 22 questions to collect data regarding each participant’s decision-making styles. It will be conducted online to identify participants’ demographic and academic details, reasons for their past academic and career choices, their preference in coursework and social life, and their perception of various subjects and careers.


Data will be collected using the Melbourne Decision Making Questionnaire, which distinguishes between four approaches to decision-making: vigilance, hypervigilance, procrastination, and buck-passing (Mann, Burnett, Radford & Ford, 1997). The responses will be analyzed using the questionnaire’s scale that has ratings true for me (2), sometimes true for me (1), not true for me (0). Each approach’s score will be calculated as follows: Vigilance; add D03, D07, D11, D14, D19, D24, then divide by 6. Buck-passing: add D15, D26, D05, D18, D22, D28, the divide by 6. Procrastination: add D09, D12, D17, D27, D30, then divide by 5. Hyper-vigilance: add D23, D01, D21, D31, D29, then divide by 5. The overall results for all female participants will be compared with that for male participants to identify any statistically significant differences.

Literature Review

Gender equality is a social issue that has seen remarkable improvement over the years. However, there are systematic gender differences that have persisted through generations. For instance, Benko & Pelster (2013) argues that women are better than men in making prudent decisions, while Bakewell & Mitchell (2006) found that men make poor shopping decisions. Available literature reveals the difference in the five main decision-making styles: vigilance, hypervigilance, procrastination, buck-passing, and rationalization between males and females.


Vigilance decision-making style is characteristic of a high-quality decision-making process, which entails thorough research, non-biased analysis of a situation, and other skills that concern the careful evaluation of decision outcomes (Wackerbarth & Tarasenko, 2017). According to Bakewell & Mitchell (2006), men, more than women, make quick and careless decisions. The haste in decision making has been found to align with men’s neglect for interpersonal reliance in making decisions, such that men are less likely to ask for opinions than women (Bakewell & Mitchell, 2006; Delaney et al., 2015). A Harvard Business Review indicates that women are more information-oriented than men, where they begin with an idea and continue to search for information and inquire about its impression on other people (Benko & Pelster, 2013). In contrast, men are more task-oriented, where they begin with an idea and act on it immediately (Benko & Pelster, 2013). These findings are backed by a Turkish study that found men to be more task-oriented, and as such, male athletes were less likely to be hypervigilant, unlike female athletes who were vigilant and had a higher score on self-esteem (Certel et al., 2013). A recent study has further indicated that women’s decision-making process is often full of doubts and uncertainty and that women, more than men, are likely to consider their emotions and the consequences of their choices (Filipe et al., 2020). Thus, women are more vigilant than men in their decision-making processes.


Unlike vigilance style, hypervigilance style in decision making entails impulsive actions (Wackerbarth & Tarasenko, 2017). According to Lizárraga, Baquedano & Cardelle-Elawar, (2007), unlike women, men tend to make decisions in haste as they feel more pressure than women, and the ultimate reach to the goal is more important than the process. Bakewell & Mitchell (2006) agree with these findings and cites studies that found men to be competitive and quick in making decisions, that were mostly careless. According to Delaney et al. (2015), men are more impulsive and engage in risky behaviors than women. Another study adds that men are under more social pressure to be responsible and do more than women, which results in spontaneous decision making, or rather, be hypervigilant (Certel et al., 2013). In a review of shopping habits, men were found to go directly to a store and buy single-color slacks – often black to minimize time spent making color choices (Benko & Pelster, 2013). This is in agreement with Filipe et al. (2020) that men have direct decision-making processes and tend towards impulsiveness.


Procrastination is essentially a delay in making a decision. Procrastinators are more likely to act or choose at the last minute to a deadline or in rush moments. According to Certel et al. (2013), there were more male procrastinators than men in their study. This is in agreement with the findings above that men were less vigilant than women. Psychological theories affirm that men generally procrastinate more than women of all ages (Vitelli, 2013). Additionally, Delaney et al. (2015) suggested that men tend to risk with deadlines and engage in risky behaviors more than women. Among female and male athletes, a study found that a male sample was more likely to procrastinate than a female sample (Certel et al., 2013). The tendency for men to procrastinate more than women may arise from the impulsiveness, goal orientation, and neglect for information search, which have been associated with hypervigilance (Benko & Pelster, 2013; Certel et al., 2013; Delaney et al., 2015; Lizárraga et al., 2007). Thus, there is a gender variation in decision-making styles, as men are more likely than women to adopt the procrastination style.


According to Wackerbarth & Tarasenko (2017), the buck-passing style entails compelling someone else to make the decision. It is an interpersonal dependence in the decision-making process, which has been found to persist among women more than among men (Delaney et al., 2015). That is, women are more likely than men to endorse interpersonal reliance in their decision-making process (Delaney et al., 2015, p.4). In contrast, men are more task-oriented and approach situations in a competitive attitude, thus less likely to endorse buck-passing (Benko & Pelster, 2013). For instance, Dom & Yi (2017) finds that men are less likely than women to inquire from their parents or friends regarding which major is suitable for them. Instead, men go ahead and make their choices independently. Further, Delaney et al. (2015) explain that women are more dependent than men during the decision-making process. As such, they are more likely than men to compel someone else to make the decision.


Rationalization in decision making utilizes objectivity and leverage on analysis, data, and logic. Rational decision-makers adopt a step-by-step model to identify a problem, evaluate several possible solutions, and pick the best solution (Uzonwanne, 2016). For instance, a rational person is likely to analyze the best routes to use during the day to avoid traffic in a busy city from morning to evening. Therefore, rationalization is characterized along with vigilance and against intuitive or hypervigilant styles (Uzonwanne, 2016). According to a study on consumer behaviors, females tend to acquire store information prior to deciding which retailer to shop from than men, who shop from the nearest or the most convenient store (Benko & Pelster, 2013). While Delaney et al. (2015) do not find statistically significant differences between rationalization for men and women, they contend that men are stereotyped to be rational and women to be intuitive. According to a recent study, rationality is gendered (Pavco-Giaccia et al., 2019). Authors report from an empirical study that “rationality is semantically gendered at the level of basic conceptual association” (Pavco-Giaccia et al., 2019, p.3). For instance, women indicated a reliance on emotions more than men and had less demonstration of reason during decision-making than men (Pavco-Giaccia et al., 2019, p.5). Overall, the literature reveals that there is a gender difference in decision-making styles.

Theoretical Framework

The gender difference in decision-making styles may be explained in cognitive theory. Cognitive theory helps understand the mental processes that influence an individual’s experiences and behaviors (Hastie & Pennington, 1995). Through cognitivism, people analyze environments and adopt the solutions that are relevant to their anticipated outcomes. Significantly, cognitive processes vary with gender (Adenzato et al., 2017). For instance, Theory of Mind (ToM) has revealed that male and female brains respond differently to stimulations (Adenzato et al., 2017). Thus, each gender adopts a decision-making style according to an individual cognition of the environment.

Moreover, the difference is apparent through the theory of psychological sex differences. According to Baron-Cohen (2010), on average, females are more empathetic than men who have a stronger drive to systemize. Baron-Cohen explains that the psychological sex differences impact the development of individual cognitive capability, and consequently, their interaction with the environment, as explained in the Theory of Mind by Adenzato et al. (2017). Thus, the gender difference in decision-making styles is revealed in cognitive and psychological sex difference theories.

Gaps in the Literature Review

It is not possible to quantify the gender difference in decision-making styles from the literature. There are only tendencies, but there is no absolute value for the difference. Additionally, there are few empirical studies on the gender difference in decision-making styles. Most studies are theoretical or presumptive. Moreover, there are contradictions in some literature sources. For instance, Delaney et al. (2015) find that men tend to be more rational than women, against Benko & Pelster (2013), who found that women are better rational decision-makers and are more vigilant than men. Thus, to find a conclusive answer to the current research question and add to the topic’s information, this paper finds a need for further research.



The study recruited 20 participants, who were full-time college students. All participants were aged between 18 and 25 years, Arabic and non-Arabic ethnic groups, and living in Riyadh. They also self-reported to be good in English, whether first or second language. A total of ten female and ten male students met this criterion.

Materials and Procedure

Data was collected from an undisclosed institution located in Riyadh, Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. A non-probability convenience sampling technique was used to find participants who were full-time college students and proficient in English as the first or the second language. This was done by sending a web-based questionnaire to approximately 100 random students in the institution. The questionnaire was not used beyond this point. About 60 were further sampled using the non-probability purposive sampling technique to admit a racially diversified sample of 20 participants. The 20 participants consented to the implications of the study and complied to the research’s ethical standards in the treatment of human subjects as administered by the American Psychological Association

They were asked to fill and complete the Melbourne Decision Making Questionnaire, which distinguishes between approaches to decision-making (Mann, Burnett, Radford & Ford, 1997). The purpose of Melbourne Decision Making Questionnaire is to measure decision-making styles of participants, mainly vigilance (6 items), buck-passing (6 items), procrastination (5 items), and hyper-vigilance (5items). This procedure was done through an online-based semi-structured interview with 22 questions to collect data regarding the four decision making styles for each participant. The 22 questions covered two themes; (1) the demography of the participant, and (2) the rational and perception of their past decisions regarding career choices, preference in coursework and social life, and perception towards various subjects and careers. This data was obtained using a 3-point Likert-type scale, including “true for me”, “sometimes true” and “not true for me” for the 22 semi-structured questions.

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Data from the Melbourne Decision Making Questionnaire were analyzed using the questionnaire’s scale that has ratings true for me (2), sometimes true for me (1), not true for me (0). Each approach was calculated as follows: Vigilance; add D03, D07, D11, D14, D19, D24, then divide by 6. Buck-passing: add D15, D26, D05, D18, D22, D28, the divide by 6. Procrastination: add D09, D12, D17, D27, D30, then divide by 5. Hyper-vigilance: add D23, D01, D21, D31, D29, then divide by 5. The overall results were then compared between male and female to check the existence of any statistically significant differences using a t-test. Also, descriptive statistics (mean and standard deviation) for each decision-making style were calculated, for both male and female, as shown in table 1. Overall, there was no statistically significant difference between male and female students using vigilance, procrastination, and hyper-vigilant decision-making styles. However, more female than male students were likely to rely on buck-passing.

Table 1 Mean (M) and Standard Deviation (SD) of Each Decision-Making Style of Male and Female

Decision Making StylesMalesFemalesns=no significant difference. Asterisk (*) shows t > 6.07, p < .05



Adenzato, M., Brambilla, M., Manenti, R., De Lucia, L., Trojano, L., & Garofalo, S. et al. (2017). Gender differences in cognitive Theory of Mind revealed by transcranial direct current stimulation on medial prefrontal cortex. Scientific Reports, 7(1).

Bakewell, C., & Mitchell, V. (2006). Male versus female consumer decision-making styles. Journal Of Business Research, 59(12), 1297-1300.

Baron-Cohen, S. (2010). Empathizing, systemizing, and the extreme male brain theory of autism. Sex Differences In The Human Brain, Their Underpinnings And Implications, 167-175.

Benko, C., & Pelster, B. (2013). How Women Decide. Retrieved 19 September 2020, from