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22 March 2010
Risk-taking ramps up around pretty women
by George Atkinson

A new study in the journal Social Psychological and Personality Science found that the presence of an attractive woman elevated testosterone levels and physical risk taking in young male skateboarders.

For the study, the researchers asked young adult men to perform both easy and difficult tricks on skateboards, first in front of another male and then in front of a young, attractive female. The researchers measured the skateboarder's testosterone levels after each trick.

When skateboarders attempt tricks, say the study authors, they make a split-second decision about whether to abort the trick or try to land it, based on a mid-air evaluation of the likelihood of success. It was this instant the researchers sought to examine because it resembles the type of risky decision that young men make when behind the wheel of a car or in a physical confrontation.

The study found that the young men took greater risks in the presence of the attractive female even when they knew there was a greater chance that they would crash. Additionally, their testosterone levels were significantly higher than in the men who were in the presence of another male.

Study authors Richard Ronay and William von Hippel say the experiment provides evidence for an effect that has existed in art, mythology and literature for thousands of years: Beautiful women lead men to throw caution to the wind.

"These findings suggest that, for men, the adaptive benefits gained by enticing mates and intimidating rivals may have resulted in evolved hormonal and neurological mechanisms that facilitated greater risk taking in the presence of attractive women," they dryly conclude.

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Source: Social Psychological and Personality Science

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