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This comes nearly two months after being presented with the case of Caster Semenya, the South African runner whose sex was questioned when she won the meter world championship. Without that hope, many may not bother. The pickle, then, is how to maintain that segregation in the face of apparent challenges. But what rules? The current policies of the International Association of Athletics Federations are vague, incomplete and contradictory.

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Do men and women differ with respect to sensation-seeking behavior, an extreme form of risk preferences? In this paper, I use data from two different high-risk sports—cliff diving and free diving—to test for possible differences between the genders.

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My findings suggest that, first, women are under-represented in both sports, but that, second, for those who self-select into these occupations, no differences with respect to sensation-seeking behavior can be found between men and women. Do men and women differ with respect to risk-taking behavior? The available experimental as well as field evidence suggests that the majority of all people are rather risk-averse e.

Holt and Laury ; Harrison et al. In representative surveys such as e.

While the average score for men is usually around 5, the respective value for women is only slightly above 4 Dohmen et al. A particular, most likely extreme, form of risk-taking is sensation-seeking, a personality trait that has been defined as the need for varied, novel and complex sensations and experience and the willingness to take physical and social risks for the sake of such experience.

Thus, sensation seekers typically expect some kind of non-monetary reward to justify the risks they are taking Zuckerman While real-life data is desirable to answer the question, whether and to what extent men and women differ with respect to sensation-seeking, that data is rather difficult to obtain, as sensation seekers are likely to be found at the extreme right of the risk-aversion scale, where few men and even fewer women locate themselves usually less than 5 percent of the respondents score as high as 9 or 10 on the relevant scale.

The data I use has the advantage that it is truly comparable because men and women compete under identical rules.

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Since in both sports men compete with men and women with women, the discouraging effect—women tend to self-select out of a tournament if they have to compete against men—that has been found in experimental studies e. Niederle and Vesterlundcannot occur here. Footnote 2. Compared to the substantial health risks that characterize these two sports, the monetary incentives used in willingness-to-take-risks experiments are typically very small.

Notwithstanding the substantial evidence for the existence of a gender difference in the willingness to take risks, the small stakes raise the question of whether the observed behavior can be generalized to admittedly rare real-world decisions. If the mostly non-monetary returns to sensation seeking are sufficiently large, women may be as willing to accept the risks associated with these activities as men are.

Rational utility-maximizing individuals constantly compare the expected costs of and the expected returns to the activities they engage in. As soon as the marginal costs exceed the marginal returns, the individual withdraws. Thus, the utility functions of sensation seekers and non-sensation seekers are different in the sense that their appraisal of costs and benefits of a particular activity Athletic male seeking female considerably. Sensation seekers differ from non-sensation seekers, first, in that the former tend to estimate risks even in activities they have not experienced to any extent as lower and that, second, their overall level of anxiety is lower.

In general, the positive emotion of sensation seeking increases with the novelty of a particular activity and the appraised risk of that activity up to some maximal level and then decreases as a function of further appraised risk. At some point, risk appraisal and the anxiety it induces result in a reduction in the sensation seeking motive and the positive arousal it produces.

What then distinguishes sensation seekers from non-sensation seekers? First, among high sensation seekers the anxiety gradient is lower and, second, the sensation seeking curve is shifted to the right compared with low sensation seekers.

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The result is that high sensation seekers are more likely to enter into risky situations while low sensation seekers are more likely to avoid them Zuckerman : 65— Thus, the typically non-monetary rewards of sensation seeking are perceived as benefits only by high sensation seekers—either because they underestimate the risks associated with a particular activity or because they are willing to accept them because the expected benefits are judged to outweigh the expected costs. However, since high sensation seekers typically prepare very well for the activities they engage in, underestimation of risk is an unlikely explanation for the observable differences in behavior Zuckerman : 55— The empirical study of sensation-seeking behavior has so far been the domain of psychology.

They also asked respondents whether they had been active in sports with a risk of serious injury or even death with 26 percent of all men and 16 percent of all women answering in the affirmative. Those who had participated in risky sports scored ificantly higher on the thrill and adventure seeking scale.

Cladellas et al. Crust and Kegan used a sample of undergraduate students 69 men and 36 women from two different universities in the North of England and found a statistically ificant correlation between mental toughness measured with a item inventory consisting of 5 point Likert scales and attitudes towards physical, but not towards psychological risks. Moreover, men were found to have ificantly higher levels of mental toughness than women. A major limitation of the study is that—as in Cladellas et al. Finally, Gamble and Walker used a sample of 80 volunteers who participated in a controlled experiment.

Wearing a helmet was associated with higher risk-taking scores than wearing a cap and participants who Athletic male seeking female a helmet reported higher sensation-seeking scores than participants who wore a cap, suggesting that people are likely to increase risks when wearing protective equipment. Interestingly, there was no relationship between risk taking and gender. Footnote 3. Samples including exclusively or predominantly athletes, who are practicing high-risk sports, reveal similar patterns.

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Merritt and Tharp found in a sample of parkour runners mostly small, yet statistically ificant correlations between neuroticism positive and conscientiousness negative and risk-taking measured with three items that each employed a five-point Likert scale. Again, men were found to be more risk-taking than women. Moreover, in both groups of athletes, men scored ificantly higher on the sensation seeking scale employed than women. Footnote 4. Very few studies have so far analyzed the mental attitudes and dispositions of either free diving or cliff diving athletes.

No differences between male and female competitors were found.

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In the first discipline, athletes cover the vertical distance in apnoea i. The event takes place in open water and the risks related to constant weight free diving are surface blackout, deep-water blackout, pulmonary and middle-ear barotrauma, pulmonary edema and, in the worst case, death.

In the second discipline, athletes aim to cover the maximal horizontal distance by swimming in apnoea with or without fins in a swimming pool. Here the risks are limited to surface blackout and shallow-water blackout.

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Moreover, using a small sample of 36 Turkish elite free divers and a matched sample of 41 sedentary individuals, Alkan and Akis found that free diving athletes exhibit higher levels of stress resistance and self-confidence. Footnote 5. Most of the literature reviewed so far has relied on stated preferences as expressed by interviewees.

Economists, however, are generally more interested in what people do instead of what people say. Footnote 7. Freediving is a form of underwater diving that relies on breath-holding until resurfacing rather than using a breathing apparatus such as scuba gear.

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It includes eight different disciplines, of which five are open water and three are pool disciplines. Pulling on the rope or changing his ballast will result in immediate disqualification. Only a single hold of the rope is allowed in order to stop the descent and start the ascent. Constant weight is the most widely practiced and known sportive depth discipline of freediving. Constant weight without fins is the most difficult sportive depth discipline because it requires the most strength and the athlete remains unaided by fins.

Free immersion is considered the most relaxing discipline and is used as a training tool to learn equalization techniques. Footnote 8. Before jumping into the water, athletes have to announce the depth they want to reach. Failure to accomplish the goal le to disqualification on that particular day of the event. Footnote 10 The dataset includes different athletes with 2—35 attempts, yielding a sample size of observations.

Research question

Among them 37 The dependent variables used in the estimations presented below are, first, the announced as well as the realized depth and, second, the result of each competition measured with four different outcome variables success, point deduction, disqualification, did not start. In cliff diving, athletes are required to display their skill and versatility by executing take-offs from five basic dive groups front, back, inward, reverse and handstand when leaving a platform that is 27 m high.

There are three different dive positions pike, tuck and straight and four different dive definitions twist, flying, barani and blind entrythat can be combined in one way or another during each individual dive. Divers are requested to hand in their four planned dives the day before the first day of competition. It is a unique feature of diving competitions that each athlete has to announce her entire dive list before the competition begins. No changes are allowed. Thus, the full list of movements to be performed in a particular competition is completely predetermined.

The competition consists of one required dive of a maximum degree of difficulty of 2. The degree of difficulty of each dive is calculated by taking into the difficulty of the execution of each manoeuver and the junction of each element of the dive: take-off, of somersaults, of twists, position during the somersaults and entry into the water.

The total score of each athlete is calculated as follows: Five international jurors judge each dive on three criteria take off, position in the air, and entry in the water with scores ranging from 0 to 10 in half point increments. The highest and the lowest score Athletic male seeking female discarded and the remaining three scores are added together.

This sum is then multiplied by the degree of difficulty for each dive and the scores from all four rounds are cumulated for the final competition result. Wildcard divers, mostly upcoming athletes, can only compete in one or two individual events.

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Finally, points are awarded from 1st to 14th place men and 1st to 8th place women respectively. Footnote The dataset includes 66 different athletes with jumps, yielding a sample size of observations.

Among them 23 The dependent variable in the estimation presented below is the of points as a measure of technical difficulty of a particular jump. Since female as well as male cliff and free divers are to the same extent sensation seekers who have self-selected into their respective high-risk sport, I expect to find that the differences in the performance of men and women have remained constant over time in free diving while they have considerably decreased in cliff diving.

The main reason is that the lung capacity of women is ificantly lower than that of men Becklake and Kauffmann ; Bellemare et al. This deters women from reaching similar depths as men.

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In cliff diving, physical abilities are less important. Thus, women—who have entered this sport later than men—will be catching up rapidly. It appears from Table 1 as well as from Figs.

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