After watching one of its most illustrious undergraduate transfer students ascend to the American presidency, The Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania apparently decided to take a statistical gander at what effect our nasty recent election has had on social norms.
And according to a post on the school's own website, Wharton found that Donald Trump's path to the White House has engendered some pretty dark behavior between the genders:
Wharton business economics and public policy professor Corinne Low and Wharton doctoral student Jennie Huang are researching the differences in the communications styles of men and women, and how their negotiation tactics change depending on which gender they are interacting with.
Over a series lab experiments, conducted before and after Election Day, they observed a striking result: Post-election, study participants were less cooperative, more likely to use adversarial strategies and less likely to reach an agreement with a partner. The effect was driven by an increase in men acting more aggressively toward women.
Hmm, so Wharton is saying that the guy who brags about going to Wharton like he brags about grabbing vaginas is having a deleterious effect on male behavior towards women at his alma mater?...Weird. And to make this even Trumpier, Wharton's experiment was based on assessing venal power dynamics in a dealmaking setting.
The lab sessions involved men and women, most of whom were Penn students, playing a “Battle of the Sexes” game in which they had to divide $20 with a partner. In some cases, participants were told the gender of their partner; in other cases, that information wasn’t provided. Each round had only two options for splitting the money: One partner would get $15 and the other would get $5, or vice versa; or, if they couldn’t agree, both would walk away with zero.
While walking away with nothing after failing to agree sounds eerily like providential trolling of Trump's approach to health care reform, the study claims innocence:
“We didn’t know Trump was going to be elected; we didn’t set out to study Trump’s election,” Low says. “We had the [lab experiment] sessions on the calendar already, and post-election, we looked at the data and saw that people’s behavior was profoundly different.”
Before the election, men were less likely to use aggressive negotiation tactics when they knew their partner was a woman – a pattern that could be classified as chivalry or a kind of “benevolent sexism,” Low says. “This tells us that if women’s outcomes are dependent on men’s whims, those whims could change. We could see the turning of the tide, and suddenly men are more aggressive.”
While an uptick in sexual harassment would be among the most serious manifestations of that kind of change, Low notes that there are also plenty of potential implications for our everyday lives — in and outside the office. When study participants became more aggressive, for example, they left more money on the table because they couldn’t reach a compromise. Payoffs went down by an average of a dollar after the election. “People’s behavior changed in a way that was less productive,” she says.
But this being Wharton, we're sure that they looked at all possibilities...right?
“It appears that whatever Trump represents – that rhetorical style, that presence – seems to have consequences for other people’s behaviors,” Low says. Many human rights and social justice groups have observed a spike in anti-Semitism and hate crimes following the election. “That’s anecdotal evidence that words matter,” Low says, “and what we have is lab evidence that this matters.”
So, it's safe to say that this is not going to make Homecoming Weekend more comfortable for one of Wharton's already least popular alums.