The Big Questions

Life, death and free will.

Risk Taking and Male Attraction to Females

You're pretty, let's skydive after I beat this chump up.

 

Well, since you are so pretty and all, why yes, I do enjoy skydiving and bar fights.

I confess. I have been guilty of being riskier to impress a female. I was 15 or so and playing indoor soccer. My friends yelled from the crowd, "Hey Nate, she is here." I jumped into turbo impress mode and tried this crazy dribbling move I couldn't possibly pull off without being Brazialian, or at least South American.

I tripped on the ball, and got a good turf burn on my leg to boot. Ok, so in the world of risk that is far down on the risky scale. But, hey, I still wouldn't have tried it if it wasn't to impress the girl in the crowd. Oh, and it turns out the girl wasn't even there. Damn my friends!

I recall a time when one of my groomsmen was at a college party. He had been drinking a good chunk and then this girl walked in he was interested in. He decided to try and prove to her he wasn't drunk, by demonstrating his coordination. It  actually turned out well. Ok, so maybe this is more stupid and silly than risky, but it sort of proves my point, and is a good story nonetheless.

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But do attractive women really make men riskier? A recent study published in Personality and Social Psychological Sciences tested the role of having an attractive female present in how risky males behaved.

Richard Ronay and  William von Hippel  (of The University of Queensland) found that male skateboarders at a skatepark took more risks and had higher testoterone levels when an attractive female was present. This resulted in more successes, but also more failures. The authors argued that risk taking evolved as a means for males to attract females for mating.

I was struck by how this research could potentially relate to sexual behavior. If men are riskier around attractive women, then they should be (perhaps) less likely to use condoms if the woman is more attractive to them.

So at least in many cases, it does appear that men get riskier when a pretty girl is present. Sometimes it results in turf burn or looking like a drunken clown, or more seriously, unprotected sex.

But maybe, just maybe, it often results in men taking a chance on that special someone when they otherwise wouldn't take the risk. How then, could men find love if they didn't take a risk with their heart?

Nathan Heflick completed his Ph.D. in social psychology at The University of South Florida.

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