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The Ancestral Logic of Politics: Upper Body Strength Regulates Men’s Assertion of Self-Interest Over Economic Redistribution

14 Pages Posted: 31 Mar 2011 Last revised: 12 Jun 2013

Michael Bang Petersen

University of Aarhus - Department of Political Science

Daniel Sznycer

University of California, Santa Barbara - Center for Evolutionary Psychology

Aaron Sell

University of California, Santa Barbara - Center for Evolutionary Psychology

Leda Cosmides

University of California, Santa Barbara - Center for Evolutionary Psychology

John Tooby

University of California, Santa Barbara - Center for Evolutionary Psychology

Date Written: October 15, 2012

Abstract

Over human evolutionary history, upper body strength has been a major component of fighting ability. Evolutionary models of animal conflict predict that actors with greater fighting ability will more actively attempt to acquire or defend resources than less formidable contestants. Here, we apply these models to political decision-making about redistribution of income and wealth among modern humans. In studies conducted in Argentina, Denmark and the U.S., men with greater upper body strength more strongly endorsed the self-beneficial position: Among men of lower socioeconomic status (SES), strength predicted increased support for redistribution; among men of higher SES, strength predicted increased opposition to redistribution. As personal upper body strength is irrelevant to payoffs from economic policies in modern mass democracies, the continuing role of strength suggests that modern political decision-making is shaped by an evolved psychology designed for small-scale groups.

Keywords: Formidability, asymmetric contests, humans, sex, redistribution

Suggested Citation

Petersen, Michael Bang and Sznycer, Daniel and Sell, Aaron and Cosmides, Leda and Tooby, John, The Ancestral Logic of Politics: Upper Body Strength Regulates Men’s Assertion of Self-Interest Over Economic Redistribution (October 15, 2012). Psychological Science, Forthcoming. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1798773 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.1798773

Michael Petersen (Contact Author)

University of Aarhus - Department of Political Science ( email )

Bartholins Allé è
DK-8000 Aarhus, 8000
Denmark

Daniel Sznycer

University of California, Santa Barbara - Center for Evolutionary Psychology ( email )

Santa Barbara, CA 93106-9660
United States

Aaron Sell

University of California, Santa Barbara - Center for Evolutionary Psychology ( email )

Santa Barbara, CA 93106-9660
United States

Leda Cosmides

University of California, Santa Barbara - Center for Evolutionary Psychology ( email )

Santa Barbara, CA 93106
United States

John Tooby

University of California, Santa Barbara - Center for Evolutionary Psychology ( email )

Santa Barbara, CA 93106-9660
United States

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