Could Stinking at Relationships Help You Survive?

Apparently so, according to a team of researchers who say we can sort people into two types: those who have a “secure attachment style” and those who have “insecure attachment styles.” Secure people tend to see the world as a safe place, trust others, and work in groups, while insecure people (about half of us) tend to be more anxious or aloof—as well as jealous, scared of intimacy, and obsessed with our partners’ loyalty. Which means, of course, secure people are better at romantic relationships than insecure people are.
But it’s possible that groups with both kinds of people are more likely to survive than groups of just secure individuals, the researchers argue. As they write in their paper:

Numerous studies indicate that almost half of the human species can be classified as insecurely attached or insecure with respect to attachment. It seems odd that evolution left humans in this vulnerable position unless there are some advantages, under at least some conditions, to anxious and avoidant attachment styles.

So the researchers put groups of three students in a room with a hidden smoke machine that made it seem like a computer was on fire to see what would happen. They found that groups noticed the smoke faster and reacted to it quicker if they had members with an “insecure attachment style.” In fact, insecure students tended to be first to notice the smoke and flee the room.
What does this mean? In dangerous situations, it seems, the tendency of secure people to stay calm and organize the group can be counterproductive, while the hypervigilance of the group’s insecure members pays off.

Category: Findings

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