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Psychol Sci. 2013 May;24(5):715-22. doi: 10.1177/0956797612461919. Epub 2013 Apr 1.

Putting all your eggs in one basket: life-history strategies, bet hedging, and diversification.

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  • 1Department of Psychology, Arizona State University, Tempe, AZ 85287-1104, USA.


Diversification of resources is a strategy found everywhere from the level of microorganisms to that of giant Wall Street investment firms. We examine the functional nature of diversification using life-history theory-a framework for understanding how organisms navigate resource-allocation trade-offs. This framework suggests that diversification may be adaptive or maladaptive depending on one's life-history strategy and that these differences should be observed under conditions of threat. In three studies, we found that cues of mortality threat interact with one index of life-history strategy, childhood socioeconomic status (SES), to affect diversification. Among those from low-SES backgrounds, mortality threat increased preferences for diversification. However, among those from high-SES backgrounds, mortality threat had the opposite effect, inclining people to put all their eggs in one basket. The same interaction pattern emerged with a potential biomarker of life-history strategy, oxidative stress. These findings highlight when, and for whom, different diversification strategies can be advantageous.


evolutionary psychology; socioeconomic status

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