Advertisement

Journal of Business Ethics

, Volume 144, Issue 4, pp 771–782 | Cite as

Sex Differences Through a Neuroscience Lens: Implications for Business Ethics

  • Lori Verstegen RyanEmail author
Article

Abstract

Recent, groundbreaking work in neuroscience has illuminated sex differences that could have a profound impact on business organizations. Distinctions between the sexes that may have previously been presumed to be due to “nurture” may now also be demonstrably related to “nature.” Here, we report recent neuroscience findings related to males’ and females’ brain structures and brain chemistry, along with the results of recent neuroeconomic studies. We learn not only that male and female brains are structured differently, but also that different portions of their brains are used for the same tasks, often leading to identical conclusions. Neuroeconomic studies also demonstrate that the effects of hormones—most notably, oxytocin and testosterone—urge males and females to both think and behave differently in ethical situations. We suggest that examination of these new results could benefit six areas of business ethics research: trust, moral decision-making, organizational justice, moral development, the ethic of care, and female management styles. We conclude with a discussion of the implications of these findings for business practice, suggesting that it may be ethical to allow men and women to be treated differently in the workplace: such treatment may be advantageous not only for the workers’ firms, but also for the workers themselves.

Keywords

Neuroscience Neuroeconomics Brain Gender Trust Moral decision-making 

References

  1. Alesina, A., & La Ferrara, E. (2002). Who trusts others? Journal of Public Economics, 65, 207–234.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Andersena, M. L., Alvarenga, T. F., Mazaro-Costab, R., Hachula, H. C., & Tufika, S. (2011). The association of testosterone, sleep, and sexual function in men and women. Brain Research, 1416, 80–104.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Baumgartner, T., Heinrichs, M., Vontanthen, A., Fischbacher, U., & Fehr, E. (2008). Oxytocin shapes the neural circuitry of trust and trust adaptation in humans. Neuron, 58, 639–650.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Buchan, N. R., Croson, R. T. A., & Solnick, S. (2008). Trust and gender: An examination of behavior and beliefs in the investment game. Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, 68, 466–476.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Burton, B. K., & Dunn, C. P. (1996). Feminist ethics as moral grounding for stakeholder theory. Business Ethics Quarterly, 6(2), 133–147.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Butler, J. K, Jr. (1991). Toward understanding and measuring conditions of trust: Evolution of a conditions of trust inventory. Journal of Management, 17, 643–663.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Cahill, L. (2006). Why sex matters for neuroscience. Nature Reviews Neuroscience, 7, 477–485.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Cahill, L. (2014). Equal ≠ the same: Sex differences in the human brain. Cerebrum. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4087190/.
  9. Castaldo, S., Premazzi, K., & Zerbini, F. (2010). The meaning(s) of trust: A content analysis on the diverse conceptualizations of trust in scholarly research on business relationships. Journal of Business Ethics, 96, 657–668.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Colquitt, J. A., Scott, B. A., & LePine, J. A. (2007). Trust, trustworthiness, and trust propensity: A meta-analytic test of their unique relationships with risk taking and job performance. Journal of Applied Psychology, 92, 909–927.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Conlisk, J. (2011). Professor Zak’s empirical studies on trust and oxytocin. Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, 78, 160–166.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Cosgrove, K. P., Mazure, C. M., & Staley, J. K. (2007). Evolving knowledge of sex differences in brain structure, function, and chemistry. Biological Psychiatry, 62, 847–855.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Delgado, M. R., Frank, R. H., & Phelps, E. A. (2005). Perceptions of moral character modulate the neural systems of reward during the trust game. Nature Neuroscience, 8(11), 1611–1618.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Dobson, J., & White, J. (1995). Toward the feminine firm. Business Ethics Quarterly, 5(3), 463–478.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Driscoll, J. W. (1978). Trust and participation in organizational decision making as predictors of satisfaction. Academy of Management Journal, 21(1), 44–56.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Dulebohn, J. H., Conlon, D. E., Sarinopoulos, I., Davison, R. B., & McNamara, G. (2009). The biological bases of unfairness: Neuroimaging evidence for the distinctiveness of procedural and distributive justice. Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes, 110, 140–151.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Durante, K. M., & Saad, G. (2010). Ovulatory shifts in women’s social motives and behaviors: Implications for corporate organizations. In A. A. Stanton, M. Day, & I. M. Welpe (Eds.), Neuroeconomics and the firm (pp. 116–130). Northampton, MA: Edward Elgar.Google Scholar
  18. Eagly, A. H., & Carli, L. L. (2007). Women and the labyrinth of leadership. Harvard Business Review, 85, 2–11.Google Scholar
  19. EEOC. (2012). Sex-based discrimination. December 12: U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. http://www.eeoc.gov/laws/types/sex.cfm.
  20. Fehr, E., & Camerer, C. F. (2007). Social neuroeconomics: The neural circuitry of social preferences. Trends in Cognitive Sciences, 11(10), 419–427.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Feingold, A. (1994). Gender differences in personality: A meta-analysis. Psychological Bulletin, 116, 429–456.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Franke, G. R., Crown, D. F., & Spake, D. F. (1997). Gender differences in ethical perceptions of business practices: A social role theory perspective. Journal of Applied Psychology, 82, 920–934.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Frantz, R. (2005). Two minds. New York: Springer.Google Scholar
  24. Gilligan, C. (1982). In a different voice. Cambridge: Harvard University Press.Google Scholar
  25. Gray, J. (2008). Why Mars and Venus collide. New York: Harper.Google Scholar
  26. Haederle, M. (2010). The best fiscal stimulus: Trust. Miller-McCune, 3, 42–49.Google Scholar
  27. Haier, R. J., & Benbow, C. P. (1995). Sex differences and lateralization in temporal lobe glucose metabolism during mathematical reasoning. Developmental Neuropsychology, 11, 405–414.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Haier, R. J., Jung, R. E., Yeo, R. A., Head, K., & Alkire, M. T. (2005). The neuroanatomy of general intelligence: Sex matters. NeuroImage, 25, 320–327.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Harrison, G., & Ross, D. (2010). The methodologies of neuroeconomics. Journal of Economic Methodology, 17(2), 185–196.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Hill, C. A., & O’Hara, E. A. (2006). A cognitive theory of trust. Washington University Law Review, 84, 1717–1796.Google Scholar
  31. Ingalhalikar, M., Smith, A., Parker, D., Satterthwaite, T. D., Elliott, M. A., Ruparel, K., et al. (2014). Sex differences in the structural connectome of the human brain. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the USA, 111, 823–828.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. Irwin, K., Edwards, K., & Tamburello, J. A. (2015). Gender, trust and cooperation in environmental social dilemmas. Social Science Research, 50, 328–342.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. Kenning, P., & Plassmann, H. (2005). Neuroeconomics: An overview from an economic perspective. Brain Research Bulletin, 67, 343–354.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. Kish-Gephart, J. J., Harrison, D. A., & Treviño, L. K. (2010). Bad apples, bad cases, and bad barrels: Meta-analytic evidence about sources of unethical decisions at work. Journal of Applied Psychology, 95, 1–31.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. Kohlberg, L. (1969). Stage and sequence: The cognitive-developmental approach to socialization. In D. A. Goslin (Ed.), Handbook of socialization theory and research (pp. 347–480). Chicago: Rand McNally.Google Scholar
  36. Konrad, C., Engelien, A., Schoning, S., Zwitserlood, P., Jansen, A., Pletziger, E., et al. (2008). The functional anatomy of semantic retrieval is influenced by gender, menstrual cycle, and sex hormones. Journal of Neural Transmission, 115, 1327–1337.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. Kosfeld, M., Heinrichs, M., Zak, P. J., Fischbacher, U., & Fehr, E. (2005). Oxytocin increases trust in humans. Nature, 435(7042), 673–676.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. Mayer, R. C., Davis, J. H., & Schoorman, F. D. (1995). An integrative model of organizational trust. Academy of Management Review, 20, 709–734.Google Scholar
  39. McEwen, B. S. (2000). The neurobiology of stress: From serendipity to clinical relevance. Brain Research, 886, 172–189.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  40. Merolla, J., Burnett, G., Pyle, K., Ahmadi, S., & Zak, P. (2013). Oxytocin and the biological basis for interpersonal and political trust. Political Behavior, 35, 753–776.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  41. Peper, J. S., & Koolschijn, P. C. (2012). Sex steroids and the organization of the human brain. The Journal of Neuroscience, 32, 6745–6746.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  42. PewResearchCenter. (2010). Millennials: A portrait of generation next. http://www.pewsocialtrends.org/files/2010/10/millennials-confident-connected-open-to-change.pdf.
  43. Ramamoorthy, N. (2004). Gender and employee attitudes: The role of organizational justice perceptions. British Journal of Management, 15, 247–258.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  44. Reuter, M., Montag, C., Altmann, S., Bendlow, F., Elger, C., Kirsch, P., et al. (2009). Genetically determined differences in human trust behavior: The role of the oxytocin receptor gene. Paper presented at the NeuroPsychoEconomics conference, Bonn, Germany.Google Scholar
  45. Reynolds, S. J. (2006). A neurocognitive model of the ethical decision-making process: Implications for study and practice. Journal of Applied Psychology, 91, 737–748.Google Scholar
  46. Riedl, R., Hubert, M., & Kenning, P. (2010). Are there neural gender differences in online trust? An fMRI study on the perceived trustworthiness of Ebay offers. MIS Quarterly, 34, 397–428.Google Scholar
  47. Riedl, R., & Javor, A. (2012). The biology of trust: Integrating evidence from genetics, endocrinology and functional brain imaging. Journal of Neuroscience, Psychology, and Economics, 5, 63–91.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  48. Robertson, D., Snarey, J., Ousley, O., Harenski, K., Bowman, F. D., Gilkey, R., & Kilts, C. (2007). The neural processing of moral sensitivity to issues of justice and care. Neuropsychologia, 45, 755–766.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  49. Ruigrok, A. N. V., Salimi-Khorshidi, G., Lai, M.-C., Baron-Cohen, S., Lombardo, M. V., Tait, R. J., & Suckling, J. (2014). A meta-analysis of sex differences in human brain structure. Neuroscience and Biobehavioral Reviews, 39, 34–50.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  50. Salvador, R., & Folger, R. G. (2009). Business ethics and the brain. Business Ethics Quarterly, 19, 1–31.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  51. Sanfrey, A. G. (2007). Social decision-making: Insights from game theory and neuroscience. Science, 318, 598–602.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  52. Sisk, C. L., & Foster, D. L. (2004). The neural basis of puberty and adolescence. Nature Neuroscience, 7, 1040–1047.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  53. Smith, C. T., Sierra, Y., Oppler, S. H., & Boettiger, C. A. (2014). Ovarian cycle effects on immediate reward selection bias in humans: A role for estradiol. The Journal of Neuroscience, 34(16), 5468–5476.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  54. Stanton, A. A. (2010). Hormonal influence on male decision-making: Implications for organizational management. In A. A. Stanton, M. Day, & I. M. Welpe (Eds.), Neuroeconomics and the firm (pp. 131–150). Northampton, MA: Edward Elgar.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  55. Steinborn, D., & Heuser, U. J. (2014). Gender über alles. World Policy Journal, 31, 17–23.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  56. Sweeney, P. D., & McFarlin, D. B. (1997). Process and outcome: Gender differences in the assessment of justice. Journal of Organizational Behavior, 18(7), 83–98.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  57. Tranel, D., Damasio, H., Denburg, N. L., & Bechara, A. (2005). Does gender play a role in functional asymmetry of ventromedial prefrontal cortex? Brain, 128, 2872–2881.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  58. Uslaner, E. M. (2002). The moral foundations of trust. New York: Cambridge University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  59. Weisberg, Y. J., DeYoung, C. G., & Hirsh, J. B. (2011). Gender differences in personality across the ten aspects of the big five. Frontiers in Psychology, 11, Article 178.Google Scholar
  60. White, T. I. (1992). Business, ethics, and Carol Gilligan’s ‘Two Voices’. Business Ethics Quarterly, 2(1), 51–61.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  61. Wicks, A. C., Gilbert, J., Daniel, R., & Freeman, R. E. (1994). A feminist reinterpretation of the stakeholder concept. Business Ethics Quarterly, 4(4), 475–497.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  62. Zak, P. J. (2008). The neurobiology of trust. Scientific American, 298, 88–95.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  63. Zak, P. J., Boria, K., Matzner, W. T., & Kurzban, R. (2005). The neuroeconomics of distrust: Sex differences in behavior and physiology. American Economic Review, 95, 360–363.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Management, College of Business AdministrationSan Diego State UniversitySan DiegoUSA

Personalised recommendations