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Doing Anything for Love: Men Risk More than Women for Romance

Update Date: Feb 11, 2013 01:27 PM EST

Literature, songs, movies and pop culture in general are filled with stories of men who risked it all for love. From Romeo to Tarzan, we are used to hearing tales of men who went to Hell and back (literally, in many cases) in an effort to secure the love of their sweetheart. In time for Valentine's Day this week, researchers from the University of Innsbruck in Austria, John Moores University in the United Kingdom and the University of Regensburg in Germany have found that men are more likely to take risks in order to receive attention from the person they love.

The study examined three areas of risk taking in men and women: gambling; risky sex, particularly unprotected sex; and reckless driving. In all four experiments, men displayed an increased inclination to take risks if there was a romantic element involved. Women, on the other hand, showed no change in their inclination to take risks.

Researchers believe that men's propensity for risk taking has its roots in evolutionary history. The researchers write, "In the evolutionary past, our ancestors were faced with a hazardous environment where they were forced to take greater risks in order to find shelter, food and sexual partners. Thus, individuals who played it safe in that they did not take any risks at all, were unlikely to survive." The study authors theorize that risk-taking evolved in an effort to attract suitable mates.

Of course, in today's day and age, the need to take many risks to ensure survival have generally all but disappeared. Therefore, contemporary men need to demonstrate their fitness with risks adapted to their new time period.

The study authors explain that they chose to study this problem because "risk-taking behavior is puzzling insofar as it may involve considerable losses (such as increased mortality rates)." They note that, even if the benefits of risks may pay off in the short-term, they could be potentially devastating in the long run. That lesson may be something that romance-starved suitors may want to keep in mind during the holiday.

The study was recently published in the Journal of Risk Research.

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