(Philip Sowels / Future Publishing/REX)
If you’re wondering what makes men act poorly towards women online, researchers may just have the answer: it’s because they are losers.
Not figurative losers, but losers in the quite literal sense of the word.
Michael Kasumovic and Jeffrey Kuznekoff from the University of New South Wales and Miami University studied how men treated women over the course of 163 games of Halo 3.
They found that men were cordial to other men no matter how well or poorly they were doing in the game, but male players who were struggling made frequent negative comments to fellow players unfortunate enough to have two X chromosomes.
As the hashtag goes, #notallmen acted the same; highly skilled male players were as polite to the women playing as they were to the men - it was just the men performing badly who became aggressive and negative towards women.
Kasumovic thinks this is because the recent growth in the number of women playing online games like Halo 3 is upsetting the pre-existing social hierarchy. Men who are dominant in this online society are not threatened by the new players, but men who are less skilled are losing status and acting aggressively as a result.
“As men often rely on aggression to maintain their dominant social status,” Kasumovic wrote, “the increase in hostility towards a woman by lower-status males may be an attempt to disregard a female’s performance and suppress her disturbance on the hierarchy to retain their social rank.”
As gaming has traditionally been a male-dominated pastime, these findings could go some way to explain 2014′s Gamergate furore. Several high profile female game developers were targeted with a torrent of misogynistic abuse, including rape and death threats, coordinated by factions of male gamers using sites like 4Chan and Reddit.
The researchers argue that these findings can be applied across both online and offline societies outside of gaming, particularly social networks like Twitter and Reddit where men tend to outnumber women.
Sadly, they are yet to come up with any solutions for how to deal with this caveman behaviour; so for now, women will just have to keep beating men at their own games.