Study Indicates When Females Are Scarce, Men Spend More
January 17, 2012

Study Indicates When Females Are Scarce, Men Spend More

From peacocks to stags, it has long been commonplace knowledge amongst evolutionary biologists that males of many animal species tend to strut their stuff more ostentatiously the more scarce their potential female mates become. It´s known to scientists as sexual selection, and a recent study has demonstrated another specific effect of it in our own species.

According to a study published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, it seems that men may be more inclined to throw around money when the number of females in their environment is low.

“What we see in other animals is that when females are scarce, males become more competitive. They compete more for access to mates,” explained the study´s lead author Vladas Griskevicius, an assistant professor of marketing at the University of Minnesota´s Carlson School of Management .

And as for sexual competition amongst Homo sapiens, anyone who has ever seen an aesthetically-disadvantaged millionaire with a Brazilian supermodel on his arm has probably picked up on the general phenomenon that money offers a powerful competitive advantage.

“How do humans compete for access to mates? What you find across cultures is that men often do it through money, through status and through products,” said Griskevicius.

Together with a team of colleagues, Griskevicius conducted a series of experiments designed to determine whether the relative abundance or scarcity of females affected the spending habits of males.

They found that even in experimentally controlled situations, male subjects

For one part of the study, subjects were asked to read articles prepared by the researchers which described their environment as being made up either predominantly of males or as equally half male-half female. When they were asked afterwards about how much money they would spend, save and/or borrow in a month, men who expected fewer females saved on average 42 percent less and borrowed a stunning 84 percent more money in the form of credit cards compared with men expecting an equal male-female environment.

In another portion of the experiment, men were asked to look at two sets of pictures. Again, one of the images depicted a scene in which there was a much larger ratio of men to women while the other showed a more or less balanced gender ratio. The researchers found that after viewing the photo with more men than women, the subjects were significantly more likely to take an immediate $20 dollar reward rather than wait a month and receive $30.

The scientists specifically pointed out that that study´s participants were not told that their behavior in response to the gender-ratio differential was being recorded.

The results of the study indicate that such evolutionarily-programmed responses in males may have a decisive influence on what economic theorists refer to as ℠time-preference´, or a person´s tendency to focus on present gratification versus planning for and investing in the future. A person with a relatively high tendency to spend resources (like money) on immediate gratification is said to have ℠low time preference´, while those who tend to delay the pleasures of the moment for future rewards demonstrate a ℠high time preference.´

Griskevicius notes that this type of seemingly subconscious response to different reproductive environments points back to our evolutionary origins

“It turns out we have a lot in common with other animals. Some of our behaviors are much more reflexive and subconscious,” he explained. “We see that there are more men than women in our environment and it automatically changes our desires, our behaviors and our entire psychology.”

The team of researchers point out that their micro study is corroborated by population data. In societies and communities with few available women, single men tend to have fewer savings and more credit card debt.

Thus whether consciously or subconsciously, most men appear to have taken the old adage that ℠money is the best aphrodisiac´ as a practical guide to dating.


On the Net: