Settling for “Mr Okay” is a better evolutionary strategy than waiting for “Mr Perfect”, a study says.
“An individual might hold out to find the perfect mate but run the risk of coming up empty and leaving no progeny,” explained co-author Chris Adami, professor of microbiology and molecular genetics at Michigan State University.
“Settling early for the sure bet gives you an evolutionary advantage, if living in a small group,” he emphasised.
It is in our nature – traced back to the earliest humans – to take the safe bet when stakes are high, such as whether or not we will mate, said the researchers who studied the evolution of risk aversion.
“Primitive humans were likely forced to bet on whether or not they could find a better mate,” Adami noted.
“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,” Adami pointed out.
With the help of digital organisms, the researchers used a computational model to trace risk-taking behaviours through thousands of generations of evolution.
These organisms were programmed to make bets in high-payoff gambles, which reflect the life-altering decisions that natural organisms must make, as for example choosing a mate.
However, not everyone develops the same level of aversion to risk, the researchers pointed out.
The study appeared in the journal Scientific Reports.