Neither daredevils nor wimps: Attitudes toward physical risk takers as matesEvolutionary Psychology 5(4): 754-777
Farthing (2005) tested a prediction derived from costly-signaling theory, that women would prefer physical risk takers (brave, athletic, fit) over risk-avoiders as long- term mates. Using scenarios involving high-risk acts, the prediction was confirmed for heroic (brave, altruistic) but not for non-heroic (brave, non-altruistic) acts. Apparently, women’s concerns over risks to their mates overrode any positive signal value of men’s risk taking, when the acts were highly risky and had no redeeming practical value. The present studies revisited the costly-signaling hypothesis using both medium- and high- risk scenarios, and it was predicted that for non-heroic acts women would prefer risk takers over risk avoiders for medium-level risks but not for highly risky acts. The prediction was supported in two studies. In Study 1, risk takers were preferred for non-heroic medium-risk acts, but risk avoiders were preferred for high-risk acts. For heroic acts, risk takers were preferred for both high- and medium-risk acts. Study 2 crossed two act risk levels with two actor skill levels, with non-heroic risks. Risk takers were preferred for the least risky combination (medium-risk act, high-skill actor) and also for the two moderately risky combinations, but risk avoiders were preferred for the riskiest combination (high-risk act, medium-skill actor). In Study 1, participants compared high-level risk takers versus risk avoiders on several person adjectives. Both heroic and non-heroic risk takers were perceived as more brave, athletic, physically fit, impulsive, attention-seeking, and foolish, and less emotionally stable and self-controlled, compared to risk avoiders. But only heroic risk takers were perceived as more altruistic, agreeable, conscientious, and sexy than risk avoiders.
risk taking, costly signaling, altruism, heroism, sexual selection, mate choice, risk perception.