Thursday, March 22, 2007

Boys Play Sports to Win, Girls Play for Fun: Boys Date for Fun, Girls Date to Win

This is an insight that comes from teaching the sociobiology of mate selection (through David Buss) and gender differences in communication (through Deborah Tannen) at the same time. Of course there are many individual exceptions. What is interesting to me is the symmetry of the broad trend.

When boys pick teams for sports, the captains (who are usually the best players) take turns picking the best remaining players, until everyone is picked and the teams are about even. This makes for the most competitive game. If a dispute arises in the game, boys find a quick way to settle it, so they can get back to the game. They play sports to win.

Girls find this way of picking teams horrifying. When I put the question of picking teams to mixed groups, the girls overwhelming say that they would pick their friends, regardless of how that would affect the outcome of the game. They would find it hard to play at all against their friends. If a dispute arises in the game, it can take a long time to resolve because everyone's loyalty comes into play. Often, if the dispute can't be resolved, the game ends. They play to have fun within their social relationships.

When it comes to dating, boys tend to see each date as an end in itself, a fun thing to do with a girl you enjoy. They can play an endless series of dates without asking themselves "where is this relationship going?" They date for fun. Girls, and especially women, often ask themselves "could I marry this guy?" on the first date. They reassess, endlessly, with their girlfriends, at each subsequent step in the relationship. If they can't see the relationship ever leading to marriage, they are likely to end it and move on. They date to win.

One of Tannen's great strengths is that she sees the value of men's and women's different ways of understanding and communicating. A good society needs both. A good life is balanced by the symmetry of men's and women's complementary tendencies. And we can all have a smoother life when we understand the worldview and motives of our complements.


Anonymous said...

I am a guy and I dated to win!

I'm sure happily married now, but I must confess that I didn't have all that many dates until I met HER...

Here's to being picky and waiting for the right Presbyterian girl to come along!

Gruntled said...

Amen. It is so much easier to get what you really want if you know that you want it from the outset.

Anonymous said...

Maybe if more women new who Mel Kiper is, they would choose teams to win.

There is a corrollary in that men during a sporting event can talk trash, argue, and yell but then leave it on the field without hard feelings. Women seem to talk less during their games and to not be able to leave it on the field.

If you ever want to look at some interesting statistics, see the differences in college athletes between men and women. The differences in the demographic is interesting.

Gruntled said...

OK, I'll bite. What would Mel Kiper say?

Anonymous said...

I date To Win!