A recent study suggests that men are less likely to cooperate in mixed-sex situations than in same-sex situations; so is your man more likely to help out his mates than you?
Now I may not be married, but I only have to go back to visit my parents to notice the stereotypical workings of a cohabiting couple… When my dad’s back from work he likes nothing more to chill out on the sofa with a good movie and a glass of wine. Then there’s my mum, who has been doing the housework while he’s been away, and carries on doing the same when he gets back.
Not being married I thought I’d see what the top google searches are for the term “Why is my husband…” Turns out a lot of you are looking for reasons why your man fails to help out around the house!
My dad’s not too bad at all. I’ve seen him voluntarily hoover the lounge…without being asked! He’s even pretty good at loading and unloading the dishwasher. What with an increasing number of women entering careers and full time work these days compared to the golden-age of the 1950s housewife, many believe that the playing field is levelling out and that men are willing to do more around the house.
However, a recent study would suggest that this rising equality between male and female home-makers must be down to the willingness of the man to pitch in. As it turns out… your husband or boyfriend really is less cooperative!
The study, published in 2011 by the Psychological Bulletin, is a meta-analytic review (my favourite!) of the gender differences in cooperation. The great thing about meta-analytic reviews is that the authors gather together data from previous studies and try and make sense of it all… so we dont have to! All in all, Balliet and colleagues waded through the results of 203 articles published over the last 50 years… rather them than me…
The review looks at gender differences in cooperation within something they call social dilemmas. In the world of psychology, a social dilemma is a situation in which there are mixed motives for acting in a certain way. So for example, you partner may not want to help tidy the home (a collective interest of a family) because he is tired from work (selfish interests of the individual).
Initially, what Balliet and colleagues found was no difference in the general levels of cooperation between men and women. Left at that, there is no reason to believe that your husband is more stubborn at helping with chores than your daughter. Until you start to look at the situation in which you’re asking him to do something…
Examining context-specific sex differences in cooperation, we find that men are more cooperative in same-sex interactions, whereas women are more cooperative in mixed-sex interactions (Balliet, D., et al. 2011).
Well isn’t that lovely! The review pointed out something most women are probably aware (or paranoid!) of:
He is more likely to cooperate with a request from one of his mates than from his nagging missus at home.
However…there is an upside! As it turns out, Balliet and colleagues also found that men are more likely than women to become more cooperative within social dilemmas the more they experience them. In a way, it’s useful to think of it much like Pavlov’s classical conditioning of his salivating dogs… the more your partner cooperates, the more you’re probably likely to appreciate this cooperation in someway. The more he receives this operation, the more likely it is that he’ll comply in the future.
So I would say the moral of the story is, you may find your partner lazy at the moment… but hopefully after a few years of training you’ll start to see improvements. Good Luck!
Reference: Balliet, D., Li, N.P., Macfarlan, S.J., & VanVugt, M.(2011). Sex Differences in Cooperation: A Meta-analytic Review of Social Dilemmas. Psychological Bulletin, 137(6), 881-909.