We connect two large bodies of scientific inquiry. First, important theories in the social sciences establish that human preferences are reference-dependent. Second, a separate field of research documents substantial differences in preferences and attitudes across genders. Specifically, we examine the universe of official classic chess games (more than 250,000 subjects and 22 million games). This allows us to study differences across genders both in cognitive performance (intensive margin) and in competitive participation (extensive margin), using the fact that personal bests act as reference points. We find that males and females behave very differently around their personal bests in both margins.

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