Male Idiot Theory

  • Thread starter nsaspook
  • Start date
  • #1
nsaspook
Science Advisor
927
1,247

Main Question or Discussion Point

http://www.bmj.com/content/349/bmj.g7094
Abstract
Sex differences in risk seeking behaviour, emergency hospital admissions, and mortality are well documented. However, little is known about sex differences in idiotic risk taking behaviour. This paper reviews the data on winners of the Darwin Award over a 20 year period (1995-2014). Winners of the Darwin Award must eliminate themselves from the gene pool in such an idiotic manner that their action ensures one less idiot will survive. This paper reports a marked sex difference in Darwin Award winners: males are significantly more likely to receive the award than females (P<0.0001). We discuss some of the reasons for this difference.
 

Answers and Replies

  • #2
WWGD
Science Advisor
Gold Member
2019 Award
5,180
2,496
Males are more likely to take risks and ignore social norms than females. It may be testosterone, maybe socially determined, maybe a combination. Maybe this explains why 90% of prison population is male and 90% of deaths on the job are males.
 
  • #3
Danger
Gold Member
9,607
244
I suspect that a lot of it is actually genetic. Natural selection would favour those who risked jumping a too-wide gap in a mountain pass in pursuit of a game animal, for instance, if he made it. Maybe likewise for acts daring, however stupid, in an effort to impress a potential mate (I personally know a couple of guys who still do that).
I did some pretty stupid things in my youth based upon neither; the cause/effect relationship just hadn't quite settled into my brain.
 
Last edited:
  • #4
Bystander
Science Advisor
Homework Helper
Gold Member
5,174
1,182
"... females (P<0.0001)." What was the probability for males?
 
  • #5
WWGD
Science Advisor
Gold Member
2019 Award
5,180
2,496
"... females (P<0.0001)." What was the probability for males?
I think this is the significance level of the test.
 
  • #6
Bystander
Science Advisor
Homework Helper
Gold Member
5,174
1,182
I took it as probability, fewer than 100 out of one million females do something so incredibly stupid as to kill themselves (presumably per annum), and was curious what the male self-destruct rate was.
 
  • #7
Danger
Gold Member
9,607
244
fewer than 100 out of one million females do something so incredibly stupid as to kill themselves
I suspect that the figure will change significantly now that texting while driving is a factor. (It's illegal here, but that still doesn't stop anyone.)
 
  • #8
92
10
I suspect that a lot of it is actually genetic. Natural selection would favour those who risked jumping a too-wide gap in a mountain pass in pursuit of a game animal, for instance, if he made it. Maybe likewise for acts daring, however stupid, in an effort to impress a potential mate (I personally know a couple of guys who still do that).
I did some pretty stupid things in my youth based upon neither; the cause/effect relationship just hadn't quite settled into my brain.
I expect it's almost all genetic. I'll admit I haven't studied it, but don't know of any culture where women commit most of the violent crimes and such.

Reverse engineering a natural selection explanation for some aspect of behavior is error prone, but that won't stop me from speculating. Women are virtually guaranteed a sufficient number of mating opportunities to have as many children as they are physically capable of having. The only question is the quality of their mates. So women have a lot to lose and not that much (I'd guess nothing at all) to gain by taking risks and dying early. The limitations on the number of children a man can have isn't a physical limitation, at least in practice, rather it's a limitation of his ability to attract women. It can be boom, bust or something in between for a man. If risky behavior helps a man attract mates, then there's potentially a lot to gain. If a man could improve his ability to attract women by as much as even 20% (however one would quantify it) that would be well worth taking substantial risks for.

Of course now days it's obsolete, but it's still wired in. That's my speculation.
 
  • #9
nsaspook
Science Advisor
927
1,247
The “idiotic” risk is what the study is about. It's not idiotic to risk jumping a wide but possible gap for game but it might be if the person tried jumping it while running backward holding two large rocks to impress someone. Not being female I can only guess but I would think most would see this as a negative indicator for a mating partner.
For example, the three men who played a variation on Russian roulette alternately taking shots of alcohol and then stamping on an unexploded Cambodian land mine.
 
Last edited:
  • #10
92
10
The “idiotic” risk is what the study is about. It's not idiotic to risk jumping a wide but possible gap for game but it might be if the person tried jumping it while running backward holding two large rocks to impress someone. Not being female I can only guess but I would think most would see this as a negative indicator for a mating partner.
There's no conflict, the same wiring that causes one to take risks to increase mating potential could cause one to take other types of risk as a side effect. Also, risk taking could be a secondary indicator of some other desirable genes. In addition, anybody in the modern world has undergone the very unnatural process of becoming a civilized person. Applying a learned rational thought process to analyze how somebody that did not undergo the civilization process would react to the world is likely to be error-prone. Why would anyone want to be a groupie? Yet plenty seem to want that.

As error-prone as reverse engineering natural selection tends to be, I'd guess it's even worse for sexual selection. When a peahen chooses a peacock with a large train, it may increase the chances of her male offspring dying young, but increases their overall chances of mating. For a male, dying young is no worse than living a long time without successfully mating. In the pre quasi-monogamy days the latter may not have been that uncommon.
 
  • #11
nsaspook
Science Advisor
927
1,247
I think there is a large difference between taking risks for any reason and idiotic behavior. Uncivilized or not most people follow this rule.

 
  • #12
Danger
Gold Member
9,607
244
It's not idiotic to risk jumping a wide but possible gap for game
I specifically said a "too-wide" gap, meaning that it would be perceived as being an almost impossible feat.
After that, I agree with jkl71.
 
  • #13
80
19
Men tend to be overrepresented at various extremes. I think this is primarily due to the higher variance in men in idiotic risk taking, and men are more likely to cross that extreme threshold.
 

Related Threads on Male Idiot Theory

  • Last Post
2
Replies
33
Views
5K
  • Last Post
Replies
11
Views
5K
  • Last Post
2
Replies
41
Views
6K
  • Last Post
Replies
18
Views
3K
  • Last Post
Replies
9
Views
4K
  • Last Post
Replies
3
Views
2K
  • Last Post
Replies
7
Views
4K
  • Last Post
Replies
1
Views
6K
  • Poll
  • Last Post
2
Replies
35
Views
7K
  • Last Post
Replies
6
Views
2K
Top