Risk aversion and making suboptimal decisions is hard wired into our evolutionary biology. This seems to be the finding of tests on Simian monkeys and their responses to a variety of reward systems.

Essentially, just like humans, the monkeys demonstrate a preference for avoiding loss over the prospect of an extra gain. MRI scans have shown that we compute losses and gains in different parts of the brain, so the latest tests on monkeys revealing they too have a loss aversion suggests some older biological need is being answered.

The Economist reasons that in our natural habitat food supply is erratic, so that the pangs of hunger are felt more keenly than the prospect of abundance. While agriculture and the affluent society have changed all that on the “supply side”, we retain the attitudes of the hunter-gatherer.

In an information society, it becomes much more important to understand these biological drivers and the biases they build into our evaluation processes.

Experience suggests these features of human behaviour are better understood by marketers than economists. As has been observed before, they know the power of the statement “Hurry, while stocks last!”

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The field of sport is frequently offered as both a direct and metaphorical example of how to perform in business. It is therefore very interesting that evolutionary biology may give an advantage to teams wearing red shirts in evenly matched contests. This further confounds our ideas that skill alone should win out.

It is clear that some games, like knock-out football contests, can produce lucky results. The randomness of colour choice represents an additional maverick factor, alongside bad referees and other excuses that bad losers will bleat about.

The researchers at the University of Durham were building on findings that testosterone levels are reduced in players when playing away from home. The suggestion is perhaps that wearing red induces more testosterone production in the wearer, or suppresses it in the opponent.

They cite examples in nature where red is a sign of vitality and fertility.

However, others argue that this is not universally the case and that the vervet monkeys’ sexual vitality is defined by the blueness of its genitals.

Lead researcher Dr Barton is a Chelsea fan, and as students of bias, we can’t help wondering if this is a case of looking for a pattern in the statistics and finding it. He clearly has a sense of humour about this, and we recommend his approach: “as a Chelsea supporter, I would say that once you can control statistically for the unfair advantage of colour, we actually won the championship last year.” By contrast, Chelsea owner, Russian billionaire Roman Abramovich, coming from a colder climate, perhaps subscribes to the blue testicle theory, and so dispatched the losing manager.

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