Distance Running as an Ideal Domain for Demonstrating a Sex Difference in Enduring Competitiveness
69 Pages Posted: 16 May 2011
Date Written: May 13, 2011
Men’s dominance of cultural displays has been hypothesized to reflect an evolved male predisposition for enduring competitiveness. Evidence for this hypothesis is equivocal, however, because there are viable alternative explanations for men’s dominance in most display domains. Here I argue that distance running is an ideal domain for addressing this issue. Distance running is ideal because it indicates enduring competitiveness, allows objective comparisons, and is accessible, acceptable, and popular for both men and women. I review recent studies and present new data showing that substantially more men than women run relatively fast in the U.S., that this sex difference in relative performance can be attributed to men’s greater training motivation, and that this pattern has been stable for several decades. Distance running thus provides compelling evidence for an evolved male predisposition for enduring competitiveness. I conclude with suggestions regarding how variation in achievement motivation can be informed by considering how evolved predispositions interact with environmental and social conditions.
Keywords: motivation, competition, runners, gender difference, Title IX
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