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Fighting ability, although recognized as fundamental to intrasexual competition in many nonhuman species, has received little attention as an explanatory variable in the social sciences. Multiple lines of evidence from archaeology, criminology, anthropology, physiology, and psychology suggest that fighting ability was a crucial aspect of intrasexual competition for ancestral human males, and this has contributed to the evolution of numerous physical and psychological sex differences. Because fighting ability was relevant to many domains of interaction, male psychology should have evolved such that a man's attitudes and behavioral responses are calibrated according to his formidability. Data are reviewed showing that better fighters feel entitled to better outcomes, set lower thresholds for anger/aggression, have self-favoring political attitudes, and believe more in the utility of warfare. New data are presented showing that among Hollywood actors, those selected for their physical strength (i.e., action stars) are more likely to believe in the utility of warfare.
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... When selecting members effective for intergroup conflict, formidability becomes valuable. Through selection pressures to outcompete other men intrasexually for access to mates, sexual dimorphism emerged over time, with men being larger and stronger than women (Puts, 2010;Sell et al., 2012). Formidability became a basis of men's social value beyond reproductive contexts in protective domains. ...
... Evolutionary history has seen members of social species frequently engage in conflict over finite resources within their ecology, with considerable documentation of physical conflict between groups in humans and non-human primates (Insko et al., 1992;Wrangham & Peterson, 1996). The coevolution of physical conflict with the sexual dimorphism in formidability has led to conflict becoming sexually asymmetric, as men engage more frequently in physical conflict (Sell et al., 2012). Although the size asymmetry imposed by human sexual dimorphism is not as large as with other primates (Plavcan, 2012), human males nonetheless possess greater muscle mass and cranial robusticity com-☆ Note: This paper represents a replacement for a previous paper submitted by this research team in light of a coding error that changed the outcome of the manuscript considerably. ...
... Archaeological evidence suggests that resource scarcity was a primary basis for physical conflict among ancestral humans (Allen et al., 2016). Given both strong men's physical advantage and general sense of entitlement over contested resources (Sell et al., 2012), desperate ecologies could lead to greater concern among women of formidable men being more likely to fight to secure resources for themselves with women being disadvantaged in conflict. Harsh environments could heighten the salience of these costs. ...
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Selecting formidable male coalitions to navigate intergroup threats and resource acquisition evolved to enhance survival through group living, given men's enhanced ability to extract and protect resources through physical aggression. Though advantageous in certain contexts, formidable men can nonetheless inflict intragroup costs, suggesting preferences for this trait varies with resource availability in local ecologies. This study tasked participants (477 women, 140 men; MAge = 19.98, SD = 4.22) with building coalitions from arrays of physically strong and weak men to acquire resources in hopeful and desperate ecologies before assessing endorsement of several aspects of conservatism. Individuals high in social dominance orientation reported greater aversion to physically strong men in desperate ecologies, although strength was generally preferred independent of ideological differences. Results suggest a tradeoffs framework in coalition-building based on the inferred costs and benefits of physically strong allies.
... In fact, social perceivers are known to use a man's size and strength as cues to his status (e.g., Blaker and van Vugt, 2014;Lukaszewski et al., 2016;Durkee et al., 2018;Buss et al., 2020;von Rueden, 2014;von Rueden et al., 2008von Rueden et al., , 2014. Moreover, more physically formidable men are expected-by themselves and by others-to receive greater deference and consideration from others (e.g., Sell et al., 2012;Lukaszewski, 2013;Delton and Sell, 2014;Pietraszewski and Shaw, 2015). Note that this need not be solely because stronger men can more effectively take contested resources or inflict costs on those who obstruct access to them (e.g., Sell et al., 2009Sell et al., , 2012Sell et al., , 2016. ...
... Moreover, more physically formidable men are expected-by themselves and by others-to receive greater deference and consideration from others (e.g., Sell et al., 2012;Lukaszewski, 2013;Delton and Sell, 2014;Pietraszewski and Shaw, 2015). Note that this need not be solely because stronger men can more effectively take contested resources or inflict costs on those who obstruct access to them (e.g., Sell et al., 2009Sell et al., , 2012Sell et al., , 2016. This same status conferral can also owe to strong men's abilities community sees his new Ferrari as parvenu, deeming him low status and treating him accordingly. ...
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Status is a universal feature of human sociality. A lesser-studied adaptive problem surrounding status is assessing who has which levels of status in a given group (e.g., identifying which people possess high status). Here, we integrate theory and methods from evolutionary social science, animal behavior, and social psychology, and we use an emotion inference paradigm to investigate what cues render people high status in the eyes of social perceivers. This paradigm relies on robust associations between status and emotion display—particularly the anger display. If a target is expected to enact (but not necessarily feel) anger, this would suggest that social perceivers view that target as higher status. By varying target attributes, we test whether those attributes are considered status cues in the eyes of social perceivers. In two well-powered, pre-registered experiments in the United States (N = 451) and India (N = 378), participants read one of eight vignettes about a male or female target—described as high or low in either physical strength or physical attractiveness (possible status cues)—who is thwarted by another person, and then reported expectations of the target’s felt and enacted anger. We find that people expected physically stronger (versus less strong) men and more (versus less) physically attractive women to enact greater anger when thwarted by a same-sex other. Strength had no significant effect on estimations of female status and attractiveness had no significant effect on estimations of male status. There were no differences in expectations of felt anger. Results suggest that people use men’s strength and women’s attractiveness as status cues. Moreover, results underscore the notion that focusing on male-typical cues of status might obscure our understanding of the female status landscape. We discuss how this paradigm might be fruitfully employed to examine and discover other unexplored cues of male and female status.
... Evolutionary models further suggest that status is attained differently among men and women (35), and is more preferentially determined via intrasexual conflicts among men [(36); p. 429; (37,98)]. Indeed, replicated findings indicate that social status in males, but not females, is strongly associated with the (perceived and actual) ability to physically win intrasexual conflicts [for reviews, see (37,38)]. Notably, the exercise of status-related physical inter-males competition was partially replaced by knowledge-and skills-based competition among humans (39). Moreover, in primates, losing in intrasexual conflicts is the most common precursor to social demotion only among males (32,40,41). ...
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Women report greater post-traumatic distress (PTD) than men following physically threatening events. However, gender differences in PTD following social stressors such as status losses are understudied. Whereas the social construction account points to a general sensitivity in women following any type of stressor, the evolutionary account suggests enhanced sensitivity to status losses in men, especially following inter-males aggressions. These propositions were examined in two studies (Study 1, N = 211; Study 2, N = 436). Participants were asked to recall a status loss and to fill out measures assessing PTD and depression severity. In line with the evolutionary account, men, as compared to women, displayed enhanced PTD following status loss. Status losses conducted by men against men were associated with greater PTD than were instances involving other target-aggressor pairings. Finally, age was negatively associated with PTD in men but not in women. The examination of evolutionary challenges modifies the standard view linking the female gender to enhanced sensitivity to trauma. Thus, the pattern of enhanced sensitivity to stressful events appears to be affected by gender- and development-specific adaptive challenges.
... Adaptations include the quick recognition of formidable physical features to estimate the capability of others to inflict harm on the perceiver (Sell, Tooby, & Cosmides, 2009) and perceptual systems to detect threats (Neuberg, Kenrick, & Schaller, 2011). Humans infer formidability through physical cues indicating upper body strength, particularly men's due to their greater proclivity toward physical conflict throughout evolutionary history (Lukaszewski, Simmons, Anderson, & Roney, 2016;Puts, 2010;Sell, Hone, & Pound, 2012). Although bodily cues provide the most accurate information, humans also rely heavily on facial features due to the immediacy of face-to-face contact. ...
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... Men who are tough and formidable may also be judged more favorably as potential coalitional partners (i.e., allies, friends) by other men, particularly when under threat from other individuals or groups (Gul & Uskul, 2020). Men who appear more formidable are seen as better leaders (Lukaszewski, Simmons, Anderson, & Roney, 2015), more attractive to some women who live in dangerous environments (Snyder et al., 2011), and are in a position to display behavioral dominance (Sell, Hone, & Pound, 2012). ...
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