Encyclopedia of Evolutionary Psychological Science

Living Edition
| Editors: Todd K. Shackelford, Viviana A. Weekes-Shackelford

Greater Polygyny Selects for Greater Risk-Taking

Living reference work entry
DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-319-16999-6_2563-1



When men can have multiple female partners, male mating competition increases, leading to riskier behavioral strategies.


Most mammalian species are polygynyous, where a male can simultaneously have several female mates (Reichard and Boesch 2003). In polygynyous species, male reproductive success is more highly skewed than female reproductive success, both because of high-status males with multiple mates, and because fewer potential partners are available to lower status males. The greater intensity of intrasexual selection increases male risk-taking in the competition for resources and status.

Sexual Selection and Polygyny

Sexual selection helps explain sex differences in psychology and behavior, including greater male tendencies for risk-taking, competitiveness, and sensitivity to social hierarchy (Cronin 1991). Males compete more intensely for female sexual partners in most animal species because females usually invest more in offspring...

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© Springer International Publishing AG 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.University of MichiganAnn ArborUSA