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Men and women organise their networks differently

(Vienna, 8th February 2013) – The way men and women organise their networks differs. This is the key finding of a study carried out at the Institute of the Science of Complex Systems at the MedUni Vienna, led by Stefan Thurner and Michael Szell: “Women’s networks are more stable and provide support in society, while men’s networks are less tightly woven, and the flow of information is more efficient,” explains Thurner. The social behaviour of more than 400,000 people playing the online game "Pardus" (www.pardus.at) was studied.

Pardus is a multi-player online game that gives players the opportunity to live a ‘second life’. Several million interactions were evaluated in the course of the game: these included communication, the making and ending of friendships and the trade of goods, but also the ‘nurturing’ of rivalries, including attacks. These interactions were formed by the researchers into an ‘alphabet’, “similar to the way the genetic code of DNA was unencrypted 15 years ago,” says Thurner.
According to the MedUni researcher, the results reflect social and evolutionary structures that have been passed down for millennia: “Women generally hold the social fabric together.” Women are also quicker to form friendships – which then last longer. Says Thurner: “It’s also important to women that their friends are friends with each other too. This is much less important to men.”

Among men, it takes much longer to form friendships, their network is very widely branched and it is not as stable as the networks of women. That said, the flow of information in the men’s network is somewhat faster. Transferred into reality, this might mean, for example, that men know more quickly that another of their networkers is looking for a job.

The fastest phenomenon is also the acceptance of a friend request when a woman contacts a man – even though there is no merit in the game for creating a family, entering into a relationship or allowing your avatar to procreate.

Men respond more aggressively, women are more economical
The opposite occurs in the behaviour with regard to rivalries: “When a woman is declared by someone else as an enemy, she often ignores it. Men, on the other hand, respond quickly to declarations of enmity and also declare the other party as an enemy. The threshold of aggression is lower among men.”
Another result of the study, which has now been published in the highly respected magazine “Scientific Reports”, is that women on average take fewer risks and are therefore more successful in business than men.

Service: Scientific Reports

How women organize social networks different from men.” Michael Szell, Stefan Thurner. Scientific Report 3, Article number: 1214. doi:10.1038/srep01214.