“Primitive humans were likely forced to bet on whether or not they could find a better mate….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.”
“Settling early for the sure bet gives you an evolutionary advantage, if living in a small group.”
How risk averse we are correlates to the size of the group in which we were raised. If reared in a small group — fewer than 150 people — we tend to be much more risk averse than those who were part of a larger community. It turns out that primitive humans lived in smaller groups, about 150 individuals. Because resources tend to be more scarce in smaller communities, this environment helps promote risk aversion.
“We found that it is really the group size, not the total population size, which matters in the evolution of risk aversion,”
However, not everyone develops the same level of aversion to risk. The study also found that evolution doesn’t prefer one single, optimal way of dealing with risk, but instead allows for a range of less, and sometimes more-risky, behaviors to evolve.
“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.”