Men’s brawn may be an indicator of their attitudes on economic redistribution, a new study finds.
Research published Wednesday in Psychological Science finds that men with strong upper-bodies tend to be more opposed to economic redistribution than their weak armed counter parts.
A possible explanation is that before the formalized government and legal system, disputes were solved through fighting and strength — causing the researchers to wonder if strength could be a proxy for political attitudes.
“While many think of politics as a modern phenomenon, it has — in a sense — always been with our species,” said Michael Bang Petersen of Aarhus University, one of the primary researchers.
To determine the relationship between men’s strength and political persuasion, the researchers measured bicep sizes, and compared it to socioeconomic status and support for redistribution, collecting information from hundreds of people in the U.S., as well as Argentina and Denmark.
“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,” Petersen said.
“In all three countries, physically strong males consistently pursue the self-interested position on redistribution.”
The researchers concluded that men with less upper-body strength were also less inclined to assert their own self interest, regardless of their socioeconomic status.
“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,” Petersen said.
Petersen explained that political persuasions cannot be predicted by traditional economic modeling, and perhaps this more evolutionary-based metric could help explain people’s political rationality.
“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,” Petersen said.
The research, however, found no link between the upper-body strength of women and opinions on redistribution.
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