Study: settling is smarter than waiting for 'the one'

"If they chose to wait, they risk never mating," said Chris Adami.
By Brooks Hays  |  Feb. 9, 2015 at 11:59 AM
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LANSING, Mich., Feb. 9 (UPI) -- Singles of the world have surely hear it all before -- from their friends and family, even from their ex-lovers. "Who are you waiting for, Mr. Perfect? You're too picky! There's no such thing as 'The One.'"

As it turns out, that criticism may be on point. In a new scientific paper, researchers argue waiting for The One -- aka Mr. Right -- is a bad strategy from an evolutionary standpoint. Settling for the best available option, -- aka Mr. Right Now -- they say, is the wiser play, which is why the majority of humans have played it safe throughout evolutionary history.

To better understand the decision for choosing a mate and life partner from an evolutionary behavior perspective, scientists at Michigan State University built a computer model the simulated the parameters of high risk decision making in small groups over thousands of generations of "digital organisms." Their data showed that living in small groups, as most early humans did, promoted risk aversion from the very beginning.

"Primitive humans were likely forced to bet on whether or not they could find a better mate," study co-author Chris Adami, a professor of microbiology and molecular genetics at Michigan State, explained in a press release.

"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," Adami added. "If they chose to wait, they risk never mating."

When the options are limited to begin with, the risk of never mating is increased -- making the safe route both the smarter and more likely play.

"We found that it is really the group size, not the total population size, which matters in the evolution of risk aversion," said co-author Arend Hintze, a research associate at Michigan State.

But evolution has allowed for a spectrum of risk aversion. Not everyone makes the safe bet. Throughout history, the researchers point out, some people have been willing to tolerate more risk.

"We do not all evolve to be the same," Adami explained. "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 new research was recently detailed in the journal Scientific Reports.

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