Study: Strong men are more self-interested

Evolutionary pressure means strong men are more likely to fight for what’s theirs, even using politics

November 8th, 2012 8:13 pm| by admin

There is a clear link between the size of a man's biceps and his willingness to use politics to fight for his own self-interests.

According to a new study from Aarhus University, the stronger a man is physically, the more likely he is to demand the economic policy that is in his own best interest.

A research team measured the circumference of the flexed biceps of over 1,400 men and women and compared the measurements to their financial backgrounds and their views about the redistribution of wealth between rich and poor.

The team behind the study, which is due to be published in the journal Psychological Science, says there is an evolutionary explanation to the findings.

According to the theory of evolution, better-adapted individuals have a better potential for survival. Being 'better adapted' means being better at fighting in conflicts over resources, and the study shows these stronger individuals are also more likely to be better at fighting for resources using politics too.

“Generally speaking, politics is a discussion about allocating resources which intuitively makes men prepare for a fight for their self-interests because it is so deeply rooted in them,” associate professor Michael Bang Petersen, from Aarhus University's political science department, told the science website “In order to understand political behaviour, we need to understand human evolutionary history. This involves, among other things, an unconscious link between physical strength and a tendency to fight for your own self-interests.”

But while being strong means you are more likely to fight for your own interests, it doesn’t necessarily mean that all strong people have the same political leanings.

“If you are poor, it is in your own narrow self-interest to take as much from the rich as possible through redistribution," Petersen said. "And the stronger a poor man is, the stronger his demand for redistribution. If you are rich, it is in your own interest to oppose claims from the poor. And the stronger a rich man is, the more reluctant he is to give money to the poor through redistribution.”

The study consisted of 486 Americans, 223 Argentineans and 793 Danes and while both men and women participated, no link was seen between physical strength and attitudes to redistribution among women.

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