Friday, December 9, 2011

Risk taking and the menstrual cycle

Women are grumpy during their period, and they have good reasons to be so. That this can impact some of their decisions should come as no surprise, yet it can be useful to determine how and how much.

Matthew Pearson and Burkhard Schipper do this by running an experiment that tries to tease out risky behavior and find that women bid higher in an auction when in the most fecund phase of their menstrual cycle or when they are on hormonal contraceptives. OK.

But wait, much like in an infomercial on TV, there is a bonus. In a second paper, the same authors find that the ratio of the length of the index and ring fingers of the right hand has no impact on risk taking. While that seems to be a rather odd measure to look at, there is a good reason to do so. But what annoys me that this is the exact same experiment as in the previous paper, they just use a different characteristic of the participants.

This is a bad case of turning a research project into many thin salami slices. The authors did not even bother rewriting much of the paper, with many part being cut-and-pasted from one to the other. Sadly, this second paper is already scheduled to appear in Experimental Economics. What are we to expect next? A paper about hair color? Astrological sign?