February 11, 2013
When It Comes To Sex And Love, Men Are Bigger Risk-Takers
Brett Smith for redOrbit.com - Your Universe Online
With Mardi Gras and Valentine´s Day just around the corner, a group of European researchers has released a timely study showing that men are more likely than women to take risks once a romantic element has been introduced into a situation.
In their report, the research team also theorized that risk-taking helped our male ancestors to pass on their genes to their progeny, thereby transmitting these daredevil inclinations to future generations.
From Romeo to Edward Cullen, fictional tales are full of gentlemen who will do anything to win the affections of a fair lady. Perhaps these stories are so captivating because they resonate with us on a deep evolutionary level.
In their report, the researchers unromantically noted that, “men in particular are expected to take risks in order to gain sexual access to women.”
The researchers conducted three different experiments to see if men in a romantic mindset were more likely than women to engage in three particularly risky behaviors: unsafe sex, gambling and reckless driving.
All three studies were performed with both male and female college students who were divided into an experimental group and a control group. In all three tests, the experimental group was “primed with mating cues similar to those that have been used in previous research.”
First, the experimental groups were asked to rate a series of photos showing an attractive member of the opposite sex. Unbeknownst to the participants, these photos had already been ranked highly in previous surveys. They were then asked to imagine the ideal date night with the most desirable partner from the photo series. The control group was also given a set of materials to look at but without any of these “mating cues.”
In the risky sexual behavior experiment, both the experimental and control groups of men and women were then asked to assess their intentions in certain hypothetical scenarios. For example, they were asked about their level of concern about having unprotected sex with their ideal date and the possibility of contracting a venereal disease from this encounter.
In the gambling experiment, both groups were given a series of cash lotteries to choose from with results ranging from high odds with low rewards to poor odds with high reward.
In the reckless driving experiment, the participants were asked a series of questions about engaging in risky driving actions during hypothetical situations on the roadway. For example, participants were asked how likely they would be to overtake a slow moving truck on their way to a vacation spot.
In all three experiments, the researchers found that men who had been romantically “primed” were more likely to engage in risky behaviors than women who had received these same mating cues.
In their conclusion, the researchers cited several shortcomings in their findings that could be corrected for by future studies. First, they noted that self-reporting was used to measure risk-taking, which is problematic because participants self-report techniques can reveal the testers´ intentions to participants.
Second, the researchers also said the study did not reveal the psychological workings behind the participants´ decision-making processes. Finally, the team did not asses or factor in any preexisting risk-related attitudes of the participants in their study.
The results of their research were published in the latest edition of the Journal of Risk Research.