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New Study Finds Women Less Likely to Choke Under Pressure Than Men

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Serena Williams of the United States celebrates winning a point in the Final Of The Ladies' Singles against Garbine Muguruza of Spain during day twelve of the Wimbledon Lawn Tennis Championships at the All England Lawn Tennis and Croquet Club on July 11, 2015 in London, England. (Julian Finney/Getty Images)
Serena Williams of the United States celebrates at the 2015 Wimbledon Championships in London, England. (Julian Finney/Getty Images)


Given the choice between Serena Williams and Novak Djokovic playing for a championship, scientists say Djokovic would be more likely to underperform in his title match than Williams. Not due to athletic skill, but rather because he is a male.

Researchers from Ben-Gurion University, University of St. Gallen, and NYU came to this conclusion in a new study exploring how gender impacts performance in high-stakes and low-stakes scenarios, Quartz reports.

Inspired by the pay gap between men and women, scientists set out to explore an alternative theory to gender discrimination: do men respond to pressure better than women? As it turns out, the results, published by the IZA Institute of Labor Economics, suggest the opposite.

To reach this conclusion, scientists developed a “pressure index,” according to Quartz, by taking data from over 8,000 matches in Grand Slam tennis tournaments to determine if the performance of each gender got better or worse as the stakes increased.

In addition to finding that “men consistently choke under pressure,” the researchers also said the drop in performance by women when the stakes were highest was “in any event about 50% smaller than that of men.”