Life history variables and risk-taking propensity
XT Wang, DJ Kruger, A Wilke
We examined the effects of life-history variables on risk-taking propensity, measured by subjective likelihoods of engaging in risky behaviors in five evolutionarily valid domains of risk, including between-group competition, within-group competition, environmental challenge, mating and resource allocation, and fertility and reproduction. The effects of life-history variables on risk-taking propensity were domain specific, except for the expected sex difference, where men predicted greater risk-taking than women in all domains. Males also perceived less inherent risk in actions than females across the five domains. Although the age range in the sample was limited, older respondents showed lower risk propensity in both between- and within-group competition. Parenthood reduced risk-taking propensity in within- and between-group competitions. Higher reproductive goal setting (desiring more offspring) was associated with lower risk-taking propensity. This effect was strongest in the risk domains of mating and reproduction. Having more siblings reduced risk-taking propensity (contrary to our initial prediction) in the domains of environmental challenge, reproduction, and between-group competition. Later-born children showed a higher propensity to engage in environmental and mating risks. Last, shorter subjective life expectancy was associated with increased willingness to take mating and reproductive risks. These results suggest that life-history variables regulate human risk-taking propensity in specific risk domains.