Male risk-taking as a context-sensitive signaling device

Michael D. Baker*, Jon K. Maner

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

68 Scopus citations


Evolutionary theorists have suggested that sex differences in risk-taking are due ultimately to greater intrasexual competition among men (compared with women) over access to mating opportunities. The current work provides one of the first direct tests of the hypothesis that risk-taking serves self-presentational functions associated with mating. Results of an experimental study indicated a strong positive relationship between sexual arousal and risk-taking, but only in men exposed to a romantically available female confederate who purportedly would view their risk-taking performance. Findings suggest that risk-taking can serve as a signaling device in the context of mating, that this function is sex-specific, and that it is highly sensitive both to the situational context and to the current psychological state of the risk-taker. This research highlights the utility of an evolutionary approach in understanding the proximate social psychological determinants of risky decision-making.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1136-1139
Number of pages4
JournalJournal of Experimental Social Psychology
Issue number5
StatePublished - Sep 1 2009


  • Costly signaling
  • Decision-making
  • Evolutionary psychology
  • Mating
  • Risk-taking
  • Sex differences

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Social Psychology
  • Sociology and Political Science


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