Tuesday, September 18, 2018

Muscle-Bound Inequality

As one suspected:
Animal models of conflict behavior predict that an organism's behavior in a conflict situation is influenced by physical characteristics related to abilities to impose costs on adversaries. Stronger and larger organisms should be more motivated to seek larger shares of resources and higher places in hierarchies. Previous studies of human males have suggested that measures of upper‐body strength are associated with measures of support for inequality including Social Dominance Orientation (SDO), a measure of individual differences in support for group‐based hierarchies. However, other studies have failed to replicate this association. In this article, we reexamine the link between upper‐body strength and support for inequality using 12 different samples from multiple countries in which relevant measures were available. These samples include student and locally representative samples with direct measures of physical strength and nationally representative samples with self‐reported measures related to muscularity. While the predicted correlation does not replicate for every single available measure of support for inequality, the overall data pattern strongly suggests that for males, but not females, upper‐body strength correlates positively with support for inequality.
So far as I can tell, the effect is real but not very big.

1 comment:

G. Verloren said...

There's so many places where this concept breaks down.

Blue whales can destroy any other life form they encounter, and yet they're remarkably placid and gentle creatures (assuming you aren't krill).

There are species of predators, such as wolves, that are far smaller and weaker than their typical prey, and that rely almost entirely on sociality and cooperation in the form of pack tactics to succeed.

There is also humanity itself - we were evolutionarily mere scavengers and foragers, until the point when we developed tool usage. It's not the size of our biceps that lets us kill dangerous apex predators like bears, tigers, et cetera - it's our ability to produce tools which grant us prodigious mechanical advantage over such creatures, such as spears.

If there's a proveable correlation between bicep size and support for inequality - particularly one that is present in males, but not in females - that suggests to me some sort of intermediary factor, such as testosterone levels. The individuals with the largest biceps are liable to be the ones with the most testosterone, and consequently the ones most prone to the characteristic behaviors of said hormone.

Alternatively, the correlation may in fact operate in the other direction - that individuals with the greatest support for inequality are the ones most motivated to increase the size of their biceps.