Human Nature

, Volume 23, Issue 1, pp 30–44 | Cite as

The Importance of Physical Strength to Human Males

  • Aaron SellEmail author
  • Liana S. E. Hone
  • Nicholas Pound


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.


Physical strength Evolutionary psychology Aggression Anger Warfare Income redistribution Hollywood actors Political attitudes 



We would like to thank Jane Lancaster and three anonymous reviewers for helpful insights and comments. We also thank the Key Centre for Ethics, Law, Justice and Governance for support.

Supplementary material

12110_2012_9131_MOESM1_ESM.doc (165 kb)
Esm 1  (DOC 165 kb)


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Copyright information

© Springer Science + Business Media, LLC 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  • Aaron Sell
    • 1
    Email author
  • Liana S. E. Hone
    • 2
  • Nicholas Pound
    • 3
  1. 1.School of Criminology and Criminal JusticeGriffith UniversityMount GravattAustralia
  2. 2.Department of PsychologyUniversity of MiamiCoral GablesUSA
  3. 3.Department of PsychologyBrunel UniversityUxbridgeUK

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