If you married your high school sweetheart, you probably didn’t think about your decision in “mating strategy” terms.
But it was a strategic decision nonetheless — and one that’s in line with basic evolutionary pressures.
A Michigan State University study published earlier this month found that, as an evolutionary strategy, ”settling for ‘Mr. Right Now’ [is] better than waiting for ‘Mr. Right.’”
It all boils down to risk.
Using computer organisms — programs running as if they were creatures living within simulated environments — the study modeled thousands of generations of development, monitoring the prevalence of “risky” mating strategies (holding out for a “perfect” mate) or risk-averse strategies of settling for the first option that came along.
The conditions were much like those that faced early humans, said Chris Adami, MSU professor of microbiology and molecular genetics and co-author of the paper.
“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.”
Group size is key.
In a humongous group, plenty of good mating options abound, meaning someone who settles for their first option might be selling him or herself short.
But in small communities — like those of our ancient ancestors — waiting could be a genetic death knell.
“An individual might hold out to find the perfect mate but run the risk of coming up empty and leaving no progeny,” Adami said. “Settling early for the sure bet gives you an evolutionary advantage, if living in a small group.”
He said that it’s entirely possible that modern human living arrangements — in which millions of people cram together in cities, making it more possible than ever before that one could find a better match than one’s current partner around the corner — could render the old risk-averse strategies less useful.
“Conceivably, since we’re now evolving in huge populations in an increasingly connected world, it’s more likely that ‘risky’ strategies of waiting for ‘Mr. Right” are better,” Olson told TheBlaze. “After all, we (as a species) have only been living in reasonably large cities for [roughly] 5,000 years, which is a blink of the eye in evolutionary timescales.”
Read the full study, published earlier this month in the scientific journal Nature, here.
Follow Zach Noble (@thezachnoble) on Twitter
Read more stories from TheBlaze