Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Political motivations may have evolutionary links to physical strength

Date:
May 15, 2013
Source:
Association for Psychological Science
Summary:
Men's upper-body strength predicts their political opinions on economic redistribution, according to new research. 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 of wealth, while less wealthy men of the same strength were more likely to support it.

Men's upper-body strength predicts their political opinions on economic redistribution, according to new research.
Credit: Vladimirs Poplavskis / Fotolia

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.

"Despite the fact that the United States, Denmark and Argentina have very different welfare systems, we still see that -- at the psychological level -- individuals reason about welfare redistribution in the same way," says Petersen. "In all three countries, physically strong males consistently pursue the self-interested position on redistribution."

Men with low upper-body strength, on the other hand, were less likely to support their own self-interest. Wealthy men of this group showed less resistance to redistribution, while poor men showed less support.

"Our results demonstrate that physically weak males are more reluctant than physically strong males to assert their self-interest -- just as if disputes over national policies were a matter of direct physical confrontation among small numbers of individuals, rather than abstract electoral dynamics among millions," says Petersen.

Interestingly, the researchers found no link between upper-body strength and redistribution opinions among women. Petersen argues that this is likely due to the fact that, over the course of evolutionary history, women had less to gain, and also more to lose, from engaging in direct physical aggression.

Together, the results indicate that an evolutionary perspective may help to illuminate political motivations, at least those of men.

"Many previous studies have shown that people's political views cannot be predicted by standard economic models," Petersen explains. "This is among the first studies to show that political views may be rational in another sense, in that they're designed by natural selection to function in the conditions recurrent over human evolutionary history."

Co-authors on this research include Aaron Sell, Leda Cosmides, and John Tooby of the University of California, Santa Barbara.

This research was supported by a grant from the Danish Research Council and a Director's Pioneer Award from the National Institutes of Health.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Association for Psychological Science. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. M. B. Petersen, D. Sznycer, A. Sell, L. Cosmides, J. Tooby. The Ancestral Logic of Politics: Upper-Body Strength Regulates Men's Assertion of Self-Interest Over Economic Redistribution. Psychological Science, 2013; DOI: 10.1177/0956797612466415

Cite This Page:

Association for Psychological Science. "Political motivations may have evolutionary links to physical strength." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 15 May 2013. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/05/130515085514.htm>.
Association for Psychological Science. (2013, May 15). Political motivations may have evolutionary links to physical strength. ScienceDaily. Retrieved July 28, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/05/130515085514.htm
Association for Psychological Science. "Political motivations may have evolutionary links to physical strength." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/05/130515085514.htm (accessed July 28, 2014).

Share This




More Mind & Brain News

Monday, July 28, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Losing Sleep Leaves You Vulnerable To 'False Memories'

Losing Sleep Leaves You Vulnerable To 'False Memories'

Newsy (July 27, 2014) A new study shows sleep deprivation can make it harder for people to remember specific details of an event. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
University Quiz Implies Atheists Are Smarter Than Christians

University Quiz Implies Atheists Are Smarter Than Christians

Newsy (July 25, 2014) An online quiz from a required course at Ohio State is making waves for suggesting atheists are inherently smarter than Christians. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Beatings and Addiction: Pakistan Drug 'clinic' Tortures Patients

Beatings and Addiction: Pakistan Drug 'clinic' Tortures Patients

AFP (July 24, 2014) A so-called drugs rehab 'clinic' is closed down in Pakistan after police find scores of ‘patients’ chained up alleging serial abuse. Duration 03:05 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com
New Painkiller Designed To Discourage Abuse: Will It Work?

New Painkiller Designed To Discourage Abuse: Will It Work?

Newsy (July 24, 2014) The FDA approved Targiniq ER on Wednesday, a painkiller designed to keep users from abusing it. Like any new medication, however, it has doubters. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:
from the past week

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins