Games show how the presence of competent women generates hostile behavior in incompetent men

A 2015 study set out to understand the nuts and bolts of sexist hostility using a timely method: how people behaved in online rounds of Halo 3. They found that incompetent men are triggered by competent women. Surprise!

We hypothesised that female-initiated disruption of a male hierarchy incites hostile behaviour from poor performing males who stand to lose the most status. To test this hypothesis, we used an online first-person shooter video game that removes signals of dominance but provides information on gender, individual performance, and skill. We show that lower-skilled players were more hostile towards a female-voiced teammate, especially when performing poorly. In contrast, lower-skilled players behaved submissively towards a male-voiced player in the identical scenario.

The worse the player, the more hostility expressed toward women in-game. Angry gamers: Losers even in their own escapist fantasies, like Arnold Rimmer with a tiki torch.

Unless I misread the study, it also shows a tipping point at extremes of competence and incompetence, where particularly high-performing female players begin to receive greater praise than similarly excellent males; and at the other end, more abuse is heaped on particularly useless male players than on useless female ones.

I couldn't find links to the transcripts, and wonder what they reveal about the specific terms of abuse.

Photo: Shutterstock.

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