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You are here: Home Publications CENs Bibliography Sex differences in economic decision-making: Exogenous estradiol has opposing effects on fairness framing in women and men.

Marie Coenjaerts, Frederike Pape, Virginia Santoso, Franziska Grau, Birgit Stoffel-Wagner, Alexandra Philipsen, Johannes Schultz, René Hurlemann, and Dirk Scheele (2021)

Sex differences in economic decision-making: Exogenous estradiol has opposing effects on fairness framing in women and men.

European neuropsychopharmacology : the journal of the European College of Neuropsychopharmacology, 50.

Burgeoning evidence indicates that women are more sensitive to the context of an offer and show a stronger propensity to adjust their behavior with changing fairness frames. We evaluated whether the sex hormone estradiol and associated stereotypical beliefs contribute to fairness framings by administering topical estradiol (2 mg) to 108 healthy women and 104 heathy men in a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled between-subject study design. Participants played the role of the responder in a modified version of the Ultimatum Game (UG), in which identical offers for the division of a given amount of money were framed as either fair or unfair. Furthermore, participants completed an unframed UG and a delayed discounting task to probe possible effects of estradiol on altruistic preferences and delay gratification. Our results show that women were more sensitive to fairness frames than men. Intriguingly, however, estradiol had sex-specific effects on fairness sensitivity by increasing the acceptance rate of proposals with a fair frame in men and reducing it in women. Furthermore, the mere belief of receiving estradiol treatment significantly increased the acceptance of unfair-framed offers in both sexes, but estradiol did not significantly alter the response to unframed offers and impulsive decision-making. Collectively, our findings indicate that estradiol has opposing effects on the sensitivity to the perceived fairness of economic offers in women and men. The profound effects of estradiol treatment and stereotypical beliefs provide support for the notion that sex differences in fairness framing are rooted in both biological and environmental factors.

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