In the animal kingdom, larger males—think chimpanzees, lions, bulls—often try to acquire or defend more resources, like territory, food, and females, than their weaker underlings. Researchers decided to apply the competitive animal model to human political decision making about redistribution of wealth and income to see if there was any correlation.
The Atlantic describes the study:
Researchers at Aarhus University in Denmark and UC Santa Barbara collected from several hundred men and women in Argentina, the U.S., and Denmark. They categorized the subjects by socioeconomic class, their upper-body strength, or “fighting ability” (as measured by the “circumference of the flexed bicep of the dominant arm”), and their responses to a questionnaire gauging their support for economic redistribution.
They hypothesized that men with more upper body strength would be less open to wealth distribution, following the same tendency of stronger males of many animal species. After all, upper-body strength has counted as a major component of dominance throughout human evolutionary history. When economics, strength and gender were taking into account, that hypothesis turned out to be true. Popular Science reports:
Socioeconomic status also showed a correlation with economic views. As expected, rich men were generally opposed to redistribution, and poor men generally in favor of it. Men with stronger upper bodies tended to have stronger views–rich, strong men were very much opposed to redistribution, while less strong but still rich men were less opposed. On the side of those that support redistribution, the trend was reversed: poorer but strong men were strongly in favor of redistribution, while weaker poor men were not as committed.
Political party had nothing to do with the results, the researchers found, and no correlation turned up between women’s opinion on the subjet and their physical strength and/or wealth.
The authors conclude: “Because 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.”
For many men, apparently, animal antics still hold strong.
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