Preference for Male Risk Takers Varies with Relationship Context and Health Status but not COVID Risk

Cyril C. Grueter, Hannah Goodman, Nicolas Fay, Bradley Walker, David Coall

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Risk taking is more commonly shown by males than females and has a signalling function, serving to advertise one's intrinsic quality to prospective mates. Previous research has established that male risk takers are judged as more attractive for short-term flings than long-term relationships, but the environmental and socioeconomic context surrounding female preferences for male risk takers has been overlooked. Using a survey instrument, we examined female preferences for male risk takers across 1304 females from 47 countries. We found preferences for physical risk takers to be more pronounced in females with a bisexual orientation and females who scored high on risk proneness. Self-reported health was positively associated with preferences for high risk takers as short-term mates, but the effect was moderated by country-level health, i.e. the association was stronger in countries with poorer health. The security provided by better health and access to health care may allow females to capitalise on the genetic quality afforded by selecting a risk-prone male whilst concurrently buffering the potential costs associated with the risk taker's lower paternal investment. The risk of contracting COVID-19 did not predict avoidance of risk takers, perhaps because this environmental cue is too novel to have moulded our behavioural preferences.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)283-292
Number of pages10
JournalEvolutionary Psychological Science
Issue number3
Early online dateFeb 2023
Publication statusPublished - Sept 2023


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