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  • 1 Center for Behavior, Evolution, and Culture, Department of Anthropology, UCLA, Los Angeles, USA
  • 2 Behavioural Science Institute, Radboud University Nijmegen, Nijmegen, The Netherlands
  • 3 Center for Behavior, Evolution, and Culture, Department of Anthropology, UCLA, 341 Haines Hall, Box 951553, Los Angeles, CA, 90095-1553, USA
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Abstract

Research has shown that male risk taking is enhanced by the presence of observers. However, naturalistic observations and laboratory experiments have provided mixed evidence as to whether male physical risk taking is primarily directed at females, at other males, or both. We present a behavioral experiment in virtual reality in which males (N = 72) crossed an ominous bridge over a steep valley — either in the presence of a male virtual observer, a female virtual observer, or alone. A male or female experimenter was present while the participants crossed the bridge. Our results show that males crossed the bridge faster in the presence of a female experimenter than in the presence of a male experimenter. Follow up tests revealed that the experimenter effect was driven by the condition in which the virtual observer was female. This finding is consistent with previous work suggesting that male physical risk taking is primarily directed at females.

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