When it comes to playing chess against a male opponent, women often outperform expectations, a new study claims.
The study results, published in the journal Psychological Science, indicate that women players are not affected by negative stereotypes about their chess abilities during competition games.
According to the researchers, data from 1,60,000 ranked chess players and more than five million chess matches suggests that women playing against men perform better than expected based on their official chess ratings.
"The news is good for female chess players, of whom there are exploding numbers. Although discrimination is real and pervasive, women playing tournament chess do not seem to be at a disadvantage when paired with men," said the co-author of the study, Tom Stafford from the University of Sheffield.
To investigate this phenomenon, researchers analyzed data from standard tournament chess games played between rated players from January 2008 through August 2015.
The rating system continuously incorporates game outcomes to update players' ratings. These ratings can be used to predict who will win in a match between any two players, the researcher said.
In total, the analyses included data from 1,50,977 men and 16,158 women playing in 55,58,110 games.
Overall, men had a slightly higher average FIDE rating than women. But the game outcomes indicated that women won matches against men more often than would have been predicted given each player's rating. This pattern held across the whole range of rating differences.
In other words, women outperformed expectations when playing a man compared with when they played against other women, a finding that runs contrary to the negative effect that one would expect as a result of stereotype threat.
"These findings show that even famous psychological phenomena may not be present all the time. Factors other than stereotype threat appear to be more important in determining men and women's tournament chess performance," Stafford noted.