Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:


Extravagant but worthless gifts help a guy get the girl


If men thought they were frittering away money wining and dining a girl to win her hand, they should think again. Dr Peter Sozou and Professor Robert Seymour from University College London (UCL) have developed a mathematical model that shows how expensive but worthless gifts may help facilitate courtship.

Reporting in the journal Proceedings of the Royal Society of London B they analysed the function of a courtship gift and what the characteristics of a ‘good’ gift are.

They show that gifts can act as a signal of a man’s intention. Offering an expensive gift may signal a long-term commitment but the man must be wary of being exploited by a gold-digger who intends to dump him once she gets the gift.

By modelling courtship as a sequential game, they show that an extravagant gift, which is costly to the man but worthless to the woman, may solve the problem.

A costly gift signals the man has long-term intentions but by being worthless to the woman, gold-diggers are deterred.

The researchers also show that a modified form of the model may apply to species where males do not help to raise the young.

Dr Peter Sozou, of UCL’s Centre for Mathematics and Physics in the Life Sciences and Experimental Biology, says:

“Gift-giving by males is a feature of human courtship and mating systems in a number of species. Females invest more resources than males in offspring and so must take care to pick the best partner possible, something that’s not always easy to gauge from general cues such as appearance.

“In humans, a girl wants a guy who is attractive to her and will help raise their children. The worst pay-off, reproductively, is if she hooks up with an unattractive male who, literary, leaves her holding the baby.

“Guys are less likely to offer expensive gifts to females they don’t have a long-term interest in. And girls won’t be impressed by cheap gifts. By offering expensive but worthless gifts, such as dinners and theatre trips, the male pays no cost if the invitation isn’t accepted. Girls that don’t find a guy attractive are less likely to take up the invitation because it would mean spending time with a person they aren’t interested in.

“In other species the deciding factors for a female is whether she’s in a sexually receptive state and the male is in a good condition. Males offer gifts which may signal their condition. Those in a poor condition can’t offer the same quality of gift.”

The researchers constructed two versions of the game with different biological assumptions based on whether the male is involved with parental care.

Attractiveness is relevant to human courtship (model 1). Male condition and female receptiveness are the deciding factors in non-parental care species (model 2). In both cases these were represented as binary variables.

Factors in the game such as whether the male and female found each other attractive were given a probability and the possible outcomes of the interaction, either positive or negative for each player, were given scores to represent the consequences of their decisions.

Professor Robert Seymour, of UCL’s Department of Mathematics, says:

“We assumed that a male’s expected pay-off from mating with a female is positive. But it’s greater if he finds her attractive, and then it’s worth him staying around after mating – so we’d give it a high score.

“Conversely, if he finds her unattractive, his post mating pay-off is maximised by deserting, giving him a lower score.

“These scenarios are represented mathematically and analysed to find each player’s best strategy.”

They considered the ‘fitness’ consequences based on a single courtship encounter involving a male and female. Despite the different biological assumptions, the two models had the same underlying mathematical structure, with both yielding equilibrium solutions in which males predominantly offer costly but worthless gifts as a prelude to mating.

“Our analysis shows that there is evolutionary logic in men ‘burning money’ to impress the girl,” added Professor Seymour.

Judith H Moore | alfa
Further information:

More articles from Social Sciences:

nachricht New population data provide insight on aging, migration
31.08.2016 | International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis (IIASA)

nachricht PRB projects world population rising 33 percent by 2050 to nearly 10 billion
25.08.2016 | Population Reference Bureau

All articles from Social Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Etching Microstructures with Lasers

Ultrafast lasers have introduced new possibilities in engraving ultrafine structures, and scientists are now also investigating how to use them to etch microstructures into thin glass. There are possible applications in analytics (lab on a chip) and especially in electronics and the consumer sector, where great interest has been shown.

This new method was born of a surprising phenomenon: irradiating glass in a particular way with an ultrafast laser has the effect of making the glass up to a...

Im Focus: Light-driven atomic rotations excite magnetic waves

Terahertz excitation of selected crystal vibrations leads to an effective magnetic field that drives coherent spin motion

Controlling functional properties by light is one of the grand goals in modern condensed matter physics and materials science. A new study now demonstrates how...

Im Focus: New 3-D wiring technique brings scalable quantum computers closer to reality

Researchers from the Institute for Quantum Computing (IQC) at the University of Waterloo led the development of a new extensible wiring technique capable of controlling superconducting quantum bits, representing a significant step towards to the realization of a scalable quantum computer.

"The quantum socket is a wiring method that uses three-dimensional wires based on spring-loaded pins to address individual qubits," said Jeremy Béjanin, a PhD...

Im Focus: Scientists develop a semiconductor nanocomposite material that moves in response to light

In a paper in Scientific Reports, a research team at Worcester Polytechnic Institute describes a novel light-activated phenomenon that could become the basis for applications as diverse as microscopic robotic grippers and more efficient solar cells.

A research team at Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI) has developed a revolutionary, light-activated semiconductor nanocomposite material that can be used...

Im Focus: Diamonds aren't forever: Sandia, Harvard team create first quantum computer bridge

By forcefully embedding two silicon atoms in a diamond matrix, Sandia researchers have demonstrated for the first time on a single chip all the components needed to create a quantum bridge to link quantum computers together.

"People have already built small quantum computers," says Sandia researcher Ryan Camacho. "Maybe the first useful one won't be a single giant quantum computer...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>



Event News

#IC2S2: When Social Science meets Computer Science - GESIS will host the IC2S2 conference 2017

14.10.2016 | Event News

Agricultural Trade Developments and Potentials in Central Asia and the South Caucasus

14.10.2016 | Event News

World Health Summit – Day Three: A Call to Action

12.10.2016 | Event News

Latest News

Greater Range and Longer Lifetime

26.10.2016 | Power and Electrical Engineering

VDI presents International Bionic Award of the Schauenburg Foundation

26.10.2016 | Awards Funding

3-D-printed magnets

26.10.2016 | Power and Electrical Engineering

More VideoLinks >>>