Risk-taking as a situationally sensitive male mating strategy

Michael D. Baker*, Jon K. Maner

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

112 Scopus citations


Evolutionary theorists suggest that men engage in risk-taking more than women do in part because, throughout human evolutionary history, men have faced greater sexual selection pressures. We build on this idea by testing the hypothesis that risk-taking reflects a male mating strategy that is sensitive to characteristics of a potential mate. Consistent with this hypothesis, the current experiment demonstrated a positive relationship between mating motivation and risk-taking, but only in men who had been exposed to images of highly attractive females. Moreover, risk-taking in men was associated with enhanced memory for attractive female faces, indicating enhanced processing of their attractive facial characteristics. No relationship between mating motivation and risk-taking was observed in men exposed to images of unattractive women, nor was any such relationship observed in women. This experiment provides evidence that psychological states associated with mating may promote risk-taking, and that these effects are sex specific and are sensitive to situational context.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)391-395
Number of pages5
JournalEvolution and Human Behavior
Issue number6
StatePublished - Nov 2008


  • Decision making
  • Emotion
  • Sex differences
  • Signaling

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous)


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