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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Where the terms “left” and “right” are used in the present manuscript they are intended to refer to their commonly understood meanings in the contemporary United States, where “left-leaning” refers to beliefs typically associated with the Democratic Party, including a more “dovish” approach to war, whereas “right-leaning” refers to beliefs associated with the Republican Party, including a more “hawkish” approach to war.
As with every human subject, Hollywood actors will have far more nuanced beliefs than can be captured in any dichotomous coding scheme. Kurt Russell and Clint Eastwood, for example, identify as libertarians, Bruce Willis has repudiated the religious right’s influence on the Republican Party, and Terry Bollea (“Hulk Hogan”) supported Obama and describes himself as “middle of the road” though he feels that the United States should have continued the 1990 Gulf War until Iraq was conquered. These variations may be obscured when averages or categorizations are used in statistical testing, but it is important to keep in mind (particularly because actors are identifiable public figures) that individual beliefs and attitudes will vary considerably within categories.
These measurements stem from various reports of unknown reliability and need to be treated cautiously until replicated.
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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.
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Sell, A., Hone, L.S.E. & Pound, N. The Importance of Physical Strength to Human Males. Hum Nat 23, 30–44 (2012). https://doi.org/10.1007/s12110-012-9131-2
- Physical strength
- Evolutionary psychology
- Income redistribution
- Hollywood actors
- Political attitudes