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Showing posts from July, 2017

The two sides of competitiveness

I am a big fan of Wellesley College.  It is, after all, my Alma Mater and my place of employment. Because of this, I feel like I need to understand the single most negative attribute of the place from the student perspective: its “competitiveness.”

Wellesley is dubbed a “competitive college” simply based on admission criteria: high SAT scores, excellence in high school academics and in extracurricular activities.  This results in selection: women who end up here are not random, but rather identified by certain common characteristics, one of which is most likely some level of “competitiveness.” In behavioral economics, we define competitiveness exactly in this way: it is the willingness of an individual to enter tournaments.  When students apply to Wellesley, they choose to enter a sort of tournament, where there are winners and losers. From a multitude of experiments, including my own, we know that women are, on average, less willing to enter competitions, especially when the deck is…