A new survey suggests that "not all risk is created equal," meaning that just because someone engages in one risky behavior doesn't mean that they're risk-takers in other aspects of their life. The University of Michigan researchers surveyed people's willingness to engage in behaviors like exposing yourself to chemicals that might lead to birth defects for a high-paying job, engaging in unprotected sex, chasing a bear out of your wilderness campsite area while banging pots and pans, and many other activities. The aim was to look at behaviors in the context of evolutionary psychology and biology. (Of course, what people say they would do and what they actually would do at the moment may differ.) According to the study, men are more likely to engage in riskier behavior than women. And just because someone likes to skydive doesn't mean that he or she would risk standing up to a dick boss. The research was published in the current issue of the scientific journal Evolutionary Psychology. From a press release:
People surveyed for the study were least likely to take fertility risks, and most likely to take risks related to social status in one's group -- like standing up to one's boss. In all domains, men were significantly more risk taking than women. During human evolution, men competed for social status and resources in order to attract mates. Thus, this pattern is not surprising, (research scientist Daniel) Kruger said.Link to press release, Link to PDF of scientific paper.
The risks that threaten fertility function differently than the others, Kruger said. Other types of risk have a possible benefit in terms of survival and reproduction. But with fertility risks, there is just a threat to reproduction. They can only cause harm in the evolutionary sense since they would only hurt our ability to procreate.
"Those were types of risks that weren't attractive to other people, those risks were the least likely to be taken, and people saw those risks as unattractive in a potential mate," Kruger said.