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   2011, Vol. 43 Issue (11) : 1320-1328     DOI:
The Effect of Mating Cues on Risk Information Processing
LI Hong-Li;LU Hui-Jing;CHANG Lei
(1 Department of Psychology, Soochow University, Soochow, 215123, China)
(2 Department of Educational Psychology, The Chinese University of Hong Kong, China)
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Abstract  According to sexual selection theory, both intra-sex competition, mainly among the unlimited sex, or males, and mate choice, mostly by the limiting sex, or females, lead to wide ranging sex dimorphic attributes, which are referred to as weapons and ornaments. Human males possess similar weapon- and ornament-like traits and behaviors. Men are bigger, more aggressive, and more violent than women. These are weapon-like traits. Men brag and talk big, have a sense of humor, and take risks. These are ornament-like traits. Both sets of behaviors are driven by mating motives so that unmarried young men manifest these weapon- and ornament-like behaviors more than married or older men. The purpose of the present study was to empirically demonstrate the association between mating motives and risk taking behavior in men and to demonstrate that the same association does not exist among women.
In two experiments, we manipulated mating motives by exposing participants to attractive opposite-sex pictures. We measured perception of risk taking by tracking and measuring participants’ attentional disengagement from risky sport scenes (Study 1) and by having participants evaluate risks involved in different risky sports (Study 2). One-hundred and fifteen college students participated in Study 1. We primed participants with a 3-minute task either to describe an ideal mate or to describe the weather. After the priming, participants completed an attention disengagement task. A picture of sports scene registering high or low risk was displayed for 500 ms in one quadrant of the computer screen. Right after the picture was a geometric figure, appearing in either the same quadrant as the picture (filler trials) or the three other quadrants (attentional shift trials). Participants were instructed to press “A” or “K” on the English computer keyboard as soon as possible to indicate whether the figure is a circle or a triangle. The more absorbed a participant was by the high-risk sport scene, the longer it took the participant to disengage from the scene and the longer it took the participant to complete the attention shift trials. Participants also filled out a socio-sexual orientation questionnaire and an emotional scale to measure their emotional state at the moment.
Results showed that independent of the emotional state, male participants primed by mating information, as compared with those primed by weather information, responded more slowly after seeing high-risk sport scenes. The same effect was also observed on female participants. Moreover, among male participants primed by mating information, those having a higher or more liberal socio-sexual orientation were not more absorbed by risky sport pictures than those having more conservative socio-sexual orientation. These results suggest that male and female participants primed by mating information are drawn to risk stimulation.
Eighty four college students (mean age = 21.53, SD = 2.17; 37 male) participated in Study 2. Upon entering the experimental room, each participant was seated in front of a computer screen where the participant completed all the visual perception tasks. The prime consisted of attractive female pictures which, as the focus of the present study, were contrasted with three types of controls – attractive male pictures, pregnant women, and sport trophies. The task was to speak to the microphone whether the sport shown in the picture presented high risk or low risk to the person doing the sport. The participants were previously given instructions on how to define high vs. low risk sports. Response time it took the participant to speak out the risk level served as the dependent variable to measure the influence of different primes on the speed by which participants process risky stimuli. Results showed that male participants responded faster to high-risk than low-risk stimuli after primed by attractive female pictures; they responded similarly to high and low risk stimuli after the control primes. Mating prime did not influence female participants’ response. The mixed results suggest that mating has an effect on risk processing and evaluation in both men and women but the mating effect is stronger on men than women as expected by sexual selection.
Keywords mating cues      parenting cues      socialsexual orientation scale      attention shift     
Corresponding Authors: LI Hong-Li   
Issue Date: 30 November 2011
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LI Hong-Li,LU Hui-Jing,CHANG Lei. The Effect of Mating Cues on Risk Information Processing[J]. , 2011, 43(11): 1320-1328.
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[1] Sui Guangyuan,Wu Yan. Overt Visual-Spatial Attention Shifts in Children[J]. , 2006, 38(06): 841-848.
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