An Experiment in Bias and Presumption

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A bridge Game with 2 sexes in play

After playing bridge online for over 25 years I decided to conduct an experiment. My original name, being in Chinese, left players uncertain about my gender. Most players thought I was male because I’m an aggressive bidder who took chances. I also play very fast, often times much too fast for others to keep up. This is because I plan the entire game ahead of time.

This is not easy to do. You must make certain guesses about where opposition power is, and try to keep both hands, yours and the dummy’s available when surprises occur in the placement of opposition tricks, a term for make a single point out of 13.

But because I was thought to be male I had many people who did not want to play with me or against me. I was not critical or abusive – they just thought of male players are being less cordial or easy to work with. I do not find this true myself.

So as an experiment I signed up on the same website using my female name. And then the fun began.

I discovered many presumptions and biases working with both a female and a male persona. As a female they expected me to be better mannered, bid cautiously or to underbid, to be slower at playing and more likely to take the blame when something goes wrong. Women also take more time and often this only means delay and not necessarily better bridge. And women will often defer to a male – I don’t of course, which confirms to some that I must be male.

As a male player it was assumed that I would be bossy and push to get my own way. I do find many males “play their own hand.” This means that they will take over if there is anything indecisive about the bid. Frequently they do not do well, or in bridge the term is “going down” or losing control of the game. They often assume that the female player is inferior to them and that pressures them to make more self-concerned errors. Males tend to be more impatient and if this happens they will make mistakes, especially when the cards are weird, such as having very long suits and high cards

The best bridge players have a permanent partner, but mine developed dementia and left the game entirely. I’ve not been able to find a good partner since.

I also discovered that both men and women will delay the game hoping to get rid of players that are better than they are. Shame on you. One very good woman player will include me as female but not when I show up as male. Most men, however, when they think I am a man, will play better bridge! This means I am more likely to play during the day as a female and at night as a male.

Let’s see – it is about noon my time. So I am off to play as a woman until dark!!

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