Settling for "Mr. Right Now" instead of waiting for "Mr. Perfect" could be in our genes.
Researchers determined early humans may have evolved to choose the safe road when it comes to mates as a survival tactic, Michigan State University reported.
"Primitive humans were likely forced to bet on whether or not they could find a better mate," said Chris Adami, MSU professor of microbiology and molecular genetics and co-author of the paper. "They could either choose to mate with the first, potentially inferior, companion and risk inferior offspring, or they could wait for Mr. or Ms. Perfect to come around," he said. "If they chose to wait, they risk never mating."
The researchers used a computational model to measure risk-taking behaviors through thousands of generations of evolution; this included life-altering decisions such as choosing a mate or passing up a romantic advance.
"An individual might hold out to find the perfect mate but run the risk of coming up empty and leaving no progeny," Adami said. "Settling early for the sure bet gives you an evolutionary advantage, if living in a small group."
The researchers determined a number of variables that influence our likelihood to exhibit risk-taking behavior, such as whether or not the decision represents a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.
Primitive humans are believed to have lived in small groups of about 150 individuals, leading to limited resources and the development of tendencies towards risk aversion.
"We found that it is really the group size, not the total population size, which matters in the evolution of risk aversion," said Arend Hintze, an MSU research associate.
Some individuals do not seem to develop such prominent risk aversion tendencies.
"We do not all evolve to be the same," Adami said. "Evolution creates a diversity in our acceptance of risk, so you see some people who are more likely to take bigger risks than others. We see the same phenomenon in our simulations."
The findings were published in a recent edition of the journal Scientific Reports.