Economic decision biases and fundamental motivations: how mating and self-protection alter loss aversion

J Pers Soc Psychol. 2012 Mar;102(3):550-61. doi: 10.1037/a0025844. Epub 2011 Oct 17.


Much research shows that people are loss averse, meaning that they weigh losses more heavily than gains. Drawing on an evolutionary perspective, we propose that although loss aversion might have been adaptive for solving challenges in the domain of self-protection, this may not be true for men in the domain of mating. Three experiments examine how loss aversion is influenced by mating and self-protection motives. Findings reveal that mating motives selectively erased loss aversion in men. In contrast, self-protective motives led both men and women to become more loss averse. Overall, loss aversion appears to be sensitive to evolutionarily important motives, suggesting that it may be a domain-specific bias operating according to an adaptive logic of recurring threats and opportunities in different evolutionary domains.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Biological Evolution
  • Decision Making*
  • Economics*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Marriage / psychology*
  • Motivation*