MAN’S quest for adventure has declined over the past 35 years with today’s generation of twentysomethings less likely than their fathers to pursue thrill-seeking activities, research says.
A team from St Andrew’s University school of psychology and neuroscience focused on the sensation-seeking personality trait and discovered that young men are less willing to take part in physical challenges such as skydiving, scuba diving or mountaineering.
A sensation-seeking scale – ranging from safe to thrill and adventure-seeking – was used to find out if people were willing to try various activities. The results showed no difference between men and women in the lower ends of the sensation scale, which includes safe options such as tasting a new food, but at the upper end, men’s daring behaviour had noticeably declined over the 35 years of the studies.
In the late 1970s, more men were more likely to try parachuting, scuba diving or mountaineering than women, but over the years their desire for thrills has decreased.
The male average is now closer to the female average, backing up the argument that some gender differences in behaviour have decreased, something linked to cultural changes.
One other reason given for the change in men’s adventurousness is that they are less fit. Evidence suggested physically adventurous activities were becoming less “male-typed”.
The study said: “The interpretation is consistent with evidence that participation in college sports is becoming more gender balanced across time in response to concerted efforts to encourage female sports participation.
“However, our analyses shows that the pattern of results is not due to an increase in female scores across time, but rather a decline in male scores. Women could be showing a greater willingness to engage in thrill and adventure-seeking relative to men over time, while changes in absolute scores are being influenced by other factors, such as average fitness levels.”
Researchers admit the questions used in the survey were designed in the 1970s and could be out of date. Activities suggested in the 1970s – such as skiing – may be viewed as less “novel or intense now”. The questionnaires measure how people feel about trying activities, not actual numbers of people trying sports.
The findings of the team, led by Dr Kate Cross, have been published in the journal Scientific Reports. She said: “The decline in the sex difference in thrill and adventure-seeking scores could reflect declines in average fitness levels, which might have reduced people’s interest in physically challenging activities.”
Other gender differences were shown to be stable: for example, men dislike dull or repetitive activities more than women.
Keiran Brady, chief instructor with Skydive Strathallan, Auchterarder, Perthshire, said bookings remain steady, but the ratio of men to women has changed in past decades. And there was a noticeable difference in the men.
He said: “They are physically less able than they were 15-20 years ago. If you said to a man 20 years ago to do something, he would do it or die trying rather than admit they couldn’t. Now they just say, ‘I can’t’. Not many women do that. They will have a go. Men will say they can’t without even trying. They’re not into physical exertion at all.”