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category: Politics

Political Motivations May Have Evolutionary Links to Physical Strength

Post: May 23, 2013 9:02 pm
Source: Psychological Science

Men’s upper-body strength predicts their political opinions on economic redistribution, according to new research published in Psychological Science, a journal of the Association for Psychological Science. The principal investigators of the research — psychological scientists Michael Bang Petersen of Aarhus University, Denmark and Daniel Sznycer of University of California, Santa Barbara — believe that the link may reflect psychological traits that evolved in response to our early ancestral environments and continue to influence behavior today.

“While many think of politics as a modern phenomenon, it has — in a sense — always been with our species,” says Petersen.

In the days of our early ancestors, decisions about the distribution of resources weren’t made in courthouses or legislative offices, but through shows of strength. With this in mind, Petersen, Sznycer and colleagues hypothesized that upper-body strength — a proxy for the ability to physically defend or acquire resources — would predict men’s opinions about the redistribution of wealth. The researchers collected data on bicep size, socioeconomic status, and support for economic redistribution from hundreds of people in the United States, Argentina, and Denmark. In line with their hypotheses, the data revealed that wealthy men with high upper-body strength were less likely to support redistribution, while less wealthy men of the same strength were more likely to support it.

Read more at Psychological Science

Comments

Post: May 29 2013 12:29 pm By: Nancy


Huh?  What am I missing? The hypothesis, that upper-body strength would predict mens opinions about redistribution of wealth seems NOT to have been proven. Instead, the key variable was wealth:

“the data revealed that wealthy men with high upper-body strength were less likely to support redistribution, while less wealthy men of the same strength were more likely to support it.”

Post: June 3 2013 1:37 am By: Anthony C. Lopez


I can see how this is confusing, but hypotheses are indeed supported. What the data reveal, as the authors say later in the article, is that “physically strong males consistently pursue the self-interested position on redistribution.” If you’re wealthy this means anti-redistribution; if you’re poor this means pro-redistribution. In addition, however, physically *weak* males are less likely to assert (of if you like, more likely to *yield*) their self-interested position on redistribution. If you’re wealthy this means less resistance to redistribution; if you’re poor this means more resistance to redistribution.

In other words:

1) Your level of wealth determines what your self-interest should be: the more money you have, the less you want to spread it around. Thus, all else equal, the wealthier you are, the less you support redistribution.

2) This is what’s novel and uniquely predicted by evolutionary theory: Male (but not female) upper body strength determines the degree to which you are willing to yield in the face of challenges to your self-interest.