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Physical Strength and Politico-Economic Attitudes: An Attempt to Replicate

Lee Ellis and Anthony Hoskin


Background. According to two recent studies, upper-body strength and muscularity are positively associated with opposition to economic redistribution policies, at least among high status males. The findings were interpreted as indicating that at least in the evolutionary past males who were physically strong were favored for harboring more self-serving resource-procuring policies, while weaker males were favored for supporting more equitable procuring policies. We sought to replicate and extend these findings. Methods. Using archival data, the present study analyzed questionnaire data from over eleven thousand U.S. and Canadian college students who were asked questions about both their physical strength and attitudes toward human equality. Results. Findings failed to confirm that an inverse association exists between physical strength and attitudes toward economic distribution. In fact, the associations between equality attitudes and physical strength were predominantly positive among both males and females, with the exception of pro-feminist attitudes. In this latter case, physically weaker males expressed the greatest pro-feminist attitudes while the opposite pattern was found among females. When statistical controls were imposed for parental social status, most of the positive correlations between equality attitudes were made slightly weaker. We also included measures of self-reported intelligence and intellectual interests and found these too to be positively associated with support for economic equality (but mixed results regarding feminist issues). Conclusions. The present results suggests that physically stronger (and more intellectually-oriented) individuals are generally more (not less) supportive of efforts to increase politico-economic equality.

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