Going All In: Unfavorable Sex Ratios Attenuate Choice Diversification

Joshua M. Ackerman*, Jon K. Maner, Stephanie M. Carpenter

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

17 Scopus citations


When faced with risky decisions, people typically choose to diversify their choices by allocating resources across a variety of options and thus avoid putting “all their eggs in one basket.” The current research revealed that this tendency is reversed when people face an important cue to mating-related risk: skew in the operational sex ratio, or the ratio of men to women in the local environment. Counter to the typical strategy of choice diversification, findings from four studies demonstrated that the presence of romantically unfavorable sex ratios (those featuring more same-sex than opposite-sex individuals) led heterosexual people to diversify financial resources less and instead concentrate investment in high-risk/high-return options when making lottery, stock-pool, retirement-account, and research-funding decisions. These studies shed light on a key process by which people manage risks to mating success implied by unfavorable interpersonal environments. These choice patterns have important implications for mating behavior as well as other everyday forms of decision making.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)799-809
Number of pages11
JournalPsychological Science
Issue number6
StatePublished - Jun 1 2016


  • decision making
  • evolutionary psychology
  • open materials
  • risk taking
  • sex

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Psychology


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