The rich like short-term relationships

Posted on under Today's research

No wonder there are so many divorces among the rich-listers: According to new research being rich may cause people to favor short-term relationships.

In a new study, a research team captured the relationship preferences of 151 heterosexual male and female volunteers (75 men and 76 women) by asking them to look at pictures of 50 potential partners and to indicate whether they would prefer a long or short-term relationship with each. Then, the researchers showed the participants a series of images of luxury items related to wealth, including fast cars, jewellery, mansions, and money.

Finally, the participants revisited the images of their potential partners and sorted them by their preferred relationship type again. After viewing the wealth images, both male and female participants selected more partners for a short-term relationship compared to the original result—an increase of about 16%.

“Not all people prefer long-term committed relationships,” explained the lead researcher. “Evolutionary psychologists believe that whether someone prefers a short-term relationship over a long-term one depends partly on their circumstances, such as how difficult it might be to raise children as a single parent.

“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. After participants were given cues that the environment had lots of resources, they became more likely to select individuals for a short-term relationship.

“We think this happened because humans have evolved the capacity to read the environment and adjust the types of relationships they prefer accordingly. For example, in environments which have lots of resources, it would have been easier for ancestral mothers to raise children without the father’s help. This made short-term mating a viable option for both sexes during times of resource abundance. We believe modern humans also make these decisions.”

The researchers also found that participants changed their relationship preferences after being shown a slideshow of dangerous animals, and videos of people interacting with infants.

“We also found that other types of cues had an effect. When the participants were given cues that the environment contained young children, they were more likely to select individuals for a long-term relationship. Dangerous environments seemed to cause both men and women to choose more long-term partners, though some women chose more short-term partners instead”.

The research was published in the journal Evolution and Human Behavior.

So what? Relationships are not only matrimonial. All humans are relationship-focused in all aspects of their lives—even the rich. This research may explain, however, why CEOs and other C-suite types are much more ready to fire people. If they see relationships as essentially short-term, and therefore less important, then ending them would be comparatively easy—and easy to self-justify.

By Dr Bob Murray