How we feel about money plays a major role in deciding whether we want to "have fun" or commit – the more we feel we have, the more we prefer flings to long-term relationships. New research published in Evolution and Human Behavior looked at how particular variables affect what we're looking for in love.
Researchers put 151 heterosexual volunteers (75 men and 76 women) through an experiment where they had to consider 50 potential partners and place them in three different categories: a short-term fling, a long-term relationship or nothing at all.
The volunteers were then showed several images of luxury goods, such as expensive cars, houses and designers clothes, before having to categorise the 50 potential partners again.
More people went for short-term flings after seeing the goods than before. Both men and women were significantly more likely to go for casual flings after they saw the pictures. It shows that wealth plays an important role in what we want our dating life to be. There's still the possibility to commit if the right person comes along, but money does impact what people go for in love.
Such a reaction is deeply rooted in our evolution. According to the research's co-author Dr Andrew Thomas, from the University of Swansea, in period of abundance you don't need to "stick to a partner" the way you would if resources were scarce.
"[I]n environments which have lots of resources, it would have been easier for ancestral mothers to raise children without the father's help," he says. "This made short-term mating a viable option for both sexes during times of resource abundance. We believe modern humans also make these decisions."
Here's an angry bear, want to hang around?
Fear also plays an important role in whether we choose to commit to a partner or not. When subjected to threatening images such as natural predators, some of the volunteers – mainly women – were more keen on long-term relationships than before. Perhaps stereotypically, men that saw the threats were not more interested in long-term things than the men who didn't.
The study shows how well humans adapt to different circumstances when partnering up with someone. "Importantly, when those circumstances change, we expect people to change their preferences accordingly. What we have done with our research is demonstrate this change in behavior, for the first time, within an experimental setting," said Dr Thomas.
Most of the people that participated were in their twenties and childless, and the experiment was conducted at a very small scale, which means there is a range of diverse factors that could be examined in more details, like whether kids, illness or age push humans to go for casual sex or commitment.