Risk-taking as a situationally sensitive male mating strategy
Michael K Baker and John K Maner; 2008
Evolutionary theorists suggest that men engage in risk-taking more than women do in part because, throughout human evolutionary history, men have faced greater sexual selection pressures. We build on this idea by testing the hypothesis that risk-taking reflects a male mating strategy that is sensitive to characteristics of a potential mate. Consistent with this hypothesis, the current experiment demonstrated a positive relationship between mating motivation and risk-taking, but only in men who had been exposed to images of highly attractive females. Moreover, risk-taking in men was associated with enhanced memory for attractive female faces, indicating enhanced processing of their attractive facial characteristics. No relationship between mating motivation and risk-taking was observed in men exposed to images of unattractive women, nor was any such relationship observed in women. This experiment provides evidence that psychological states associated with mating may promote risk-taking, and that these effects are sex specific and are sensitive to situational context.