Male Risk Taking as a Sexual Display Strategy: Proximal and Distal Explanations for Young Men's Risk Taking

Richard Ronay (2010). Male Risk Taking as a Sexual Display Strategy: Proximal and Distal Explanations for Young Men's Risk Taking PhD Thesis, School of Psychology, The University of Queensland.

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Author Richard Ronay
Thesis Title Male Risk Taking as a Sexual Display Strategy: Proximal and Distal Explanations for Young Men's Risk Taking
School, Centre or Institute School of Psychology
Institution The University of Queensland
Publication date 2010-01
Thesis type PhD Thesis
Supervisor Professor William von Hippel
Dr Eric Vanman
Total pages 83
Total black and white pages 83
Subjects 17 Psychology and Cognitive Sciences
Abstract/Summary This research explores whether male risk taking emerges as a sexual display strategy in the presence of attractive women. Experiments 1 to 3 explored whether young males reported and engaged in more risk taking after viewing pictures of highly attractive females. Possible self-control mechanisms were investigated via working memory, reversal learning, and Stroop tasks. In addition, second to fourth digit ratio (2D:4D) was measured as a proxy for individual differences in testosterone. Viewing pictures of highly attractive females led to greater self-reported risk-taking. 2D:4D was found to moderate the effect on risk-taking behaviours, with increases for high, but decreases for low testosterone males. Digit ratio also moderated the effects observed on the Stroop and reversal learning tasks. Experiments 4 and 5 extended these findings to examine how power interacts with testosterone to influence risk taking and inhibitory control. As testosterone is as-sociated with the pursuit of power and status (Dabbs & Dabbs, 2000), high testoster-one individuals primed with power were expected to have little reason to disrupt the status quo and thus should be risk-avoidant. Conversely, high-testosterone individuals primed with low power were expected to use risk taking as a vehicle for pursuing po-tential gains to their status and resources. The findings from two experiments are con-sistent with these predictions. In Experiment 1, higher testosterone males (as indicated by second–fourth digit ratio) showed greater risk-taking when primed with low power. Experiment 2 replicated this effect and also showed that when primed with high power, higher testosterone males took fewer risks. The influence of power on Stroop performance was also moderated by individual differences in testosterone. Par-ticipants primed with high power showed better Stroop performance if they were lower in testosterone, whereas participants primed with low power showed better Stroop performance if they were higher in testosterone. These results suggest that greater executive control accompanies but does not underlie enhanced risk taking, caused by testosterone and power. Finally, results from a field experiment (Experiment 6) with skateboarders demon-strate that physical risk taking by young male skateboarders increases in the presence of an attractive female. This increased risk taking led to more successes but also more crash landings in front of the female observer. Mediational analyses suggest that this increase in risk taking is caused in part by elevated testosterone levels of men who performed in front of the attractive female. In addition, skateboarders’ risk taking was predicted by their performance on a reversal-learning task, reversal-learning perform-ance was disrupted by the presence of the attractive female, and the female’s presence moderated the observed relationship between risk taking and reversal learning. These results suggest that men use physical risk taking as a sexual display strategy, and they provide suggestive evidence regarding possible hormonal and neural mechanisms.
Keyword risk taking, testosterone, 2D:4D, executive control, sexual competition, power

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Created: Mon, 26 Apr 2010, 10:15:49 EST by Mr Richard Ronay on behalf of Library - Information Access Service