Sci-Tech

Waiting for Mr. Right goes against evolutionary grain, says research

Technically Incorrect: A report by researchers at Michigan State University suggests we're hardwired to skip Mr. or Ms. Right in favor of Mr./Ms. Right Now.

Technically Incorrect offers a slightly twisted take on the tech that's taken over our lives.


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Should you wait for the One? Or just settle for the Two? ABC News/YouTube screenshot by Chris Matyszczyk/CNET

Have you met the One?

Or is the One with another One, which is driving you to wonder whether you'll ever be happy?

Perhaps you haven't even met the One, and you feel time is sucking the life from you like a lounging leech.

I am here to give all the Oneless hope. Forget the One. Go for the Two.

How can I possibly know? Well, I've just fallen upon some research performed by evolutionary biologists at Michigan State University.

Naturally, the research has an intellectual title: Risk Sensitivity as an Evolutionary Adaptation. You might have thought that it was only actuaries, insurance executives and procurement managers who bathed in reducing risk at life's every turn.

However, these scientists believe we're evolutionarily primed to not be revolutionary. Chris Adami, one of the paper's co-authors, offered a dull view of humanity on his university's site: "Primitive humans were likely forced to bet on whether or not they could find a better mate."

The primitives knew that if they didn't find the perfect mate, they would be left alone. So the risk of never mating is, apparently, so burned into our innards that we settle.

Then we get divorced. Then we settle again.

Humanity seems to be full of poor poker players, who bet small and win even smaller. And never learn.

Adami did emphasize that the size of the group in which you live influences your bets on love. Those who grow up in a group of fewer than 150 are the most likely to shy away from waiting for the real thing.

As the research reports explains: "A preference for risk-averse strategies only evolves in small populations of less than 1,000 individuals, or in populations segmented into groups of 150 individuals or fewer -- numbers thought to be comparable to what humans encountered in the past."

Don't we all grow up in small worlds? Oh, you can claim to have 5,000 Facebook friends, but the real number of people who surround you -- both as a child and an adult -- is surely, for most people, less than 100.

Mathematicians, of course, think about these things differently from these flimsy biological types. Research from Harvard has insisted that the best way to approach these things is: If you don't find the One after the first 37 people, you should choose the next best one. After that, you're only in for bigger and bigger disappointment.

Adami tossed one small confetti-size piece of hope to all those who want to hold out, even if that means finding the One only in the next life. He 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."

This ultimate risk-taking, I can tell you, has its interesting aspects. (Oh, of course I'm one of those foolish idealists. You needed to ask?)

You have to truly trust your own judgment. And it's only as you get a little older that you realize your judgment leaves a lot to be desired.