The golden boy's appetite for a little some'n some'n
Researchers are trying to find out why charismatics seem to be adventurous by nature. Risk takers in general, glittering personality or not, tend to be less concerned about the future than the rest of us—that is, their minds do not loop a continuous B-roll of “what if” scenarios. What if I decide to drive and my engine dies? What if I fly but don’t make that quick turn in Chicago? What if I do make the connection, but catch a cold from being cooped up with all those germy strangers?
Given that their natural aplomb is attractive to others, charismatic men are presented with more and perhaps more tempting sexual opportunities than the average guy. But with his reputation, fortune, wife, children, and future earning potential on the line, why would a man like, say, Tiger Woods or David Petraeus take a chance? An interdisciplinary team led by Joseph Henrich is studying sexual risks among high-status men like these. The researchers theorize that such behavior is only natural, from an evolutionary point of view. Monogamous marriage, they suggest, has evolved in the West because it's a utilitarian institution that benefits society overall, if not certain individual members of the group. But in societies in which it’s acceptable to take multiple wives, the number of wives correlates positively with a man’s wealth and power. If a man like Eliot Spitzer were living under those rules, keeping a mistress or two would simply be a perk of the job.
In addition, Henrich’s group points to tournament theory, which posits that players in winner-take-all competitions and other high-stakes games must take more risks than would be necessary in team sports. Except perhaps in medicine, the consequences of failure are nowhere higher than in military service and political office. The men at the highest echelons of these fields are exactly the type who thrive on all-or-nothing gambles. The threat of exposure, then, makes an illicit tryst—or a text message, as the case may be—that much more exciting to such men, if they're thinking about the consequences at all.