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Skateboarders Try Riskier Tricks for Women

• June 18, 2010 • 5:00 AM

Researchers find that skateboarders will take more risks with their tricks and boast higher testosterone levels when women are present.

At long last, science has proven what we’ve suspected all along: Guys ride skateboards for the chicks. In a study aimed at determining the role testosterone plays in physical risk-taking, researchers had young men try to pull off both easy and difficult skateboard tricks — first for another guy and then in the presence of a young, attractive female.

The skateboarders were measured after each epic failure — sorry, “attempted move” — and, consistent with predictions, the young men had higher testosterone levels and took bigger risks when good-looking women were watching. (Also noted: increasing use of the phrase “dude, I swear, I totally landed that ‘ollie,’ like, 50 times straight yesterday.”)

The researchers say their experiment sheds light on other risky masculine behavior — from bar brawls to reckless driving. That’s because the study measures the split-second choice skateboarders make when weighing the likelihood of success (an apathetic yawn from a girl who’s dating the quarterback) versus the physical cost of failure (skinned forehead, shattered ball bearings and another Saturday night with the Tony Hawk video collection).


Skateboarder Frankie Hill, however, took risks on his board and didn’t seem to care who was watching.

“This experiment provides evidence for an effect that has existed in art, mythology, and literature for thousands of years: Beautiful women lead men to throw caution to the wind,” write authors Richard Ronay and William von Hippel in the inaugural issue of Social Psychological and Personality Science. “These findings suggest that, for men, the adaptive benefits gained by enticing mates and intimidating rivals may have resulted in evolved hormonal and neurological mechanisms that facilitated greater risk taking in the presence of attractive women.”

In other words, pride comes before a fall — especially from a skateboard.

The Cocktail Napkin appears at the back page of each issue of Miller-McCune magazine, highlighting current research that merits a raised eyebrow or a painful grin.

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Matt Palmquist
A graduate of Northwestern University's Medill School of Journalism, Matt Palmquist, a former Miller-McCune staff writer, began his career at daily newspapers such as The Oregonian and the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. In 2001, he became a staff writer at the SF Weekly in San Francisco, where he won several local and national awards. He also wrote a humorous current affairs column called "The Apologist," which he continued upon leaving the Weekly and beginning a freelance career.

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