Size of biceps influences men's political attitudes

Physically strong men are more likely to act in their own financial self-interest than physically weaker men when it comes to redistribution of wealth. This is the finding of new, extensive study by Aarhus University, School of Business and Social Sciences.

2012.11.02 | Andreas G. Jensby

A new, extensive study revealed there is a clear link between the size of men's biceps and their willingness to demand the economic policy that is in their own best interest. Photo: Colourbox

How willing are you as a man to demand what is in your own best interest when it comes to the redistribution of wealth between rich and poor? The answer to this question lies in your biceps. There is a clear link between the size of men's biceps and their willingness to demand the economic policy that is in their own best interest.

This finding is revealed in a new, extensive study by Aarhus University, School of Business and Social Sciences. Researchers have measured the circumference of the flexed biceps of more than 1,400 men and women from Denmark, Argentina and the USA, and have combined these measurements with data on their financial backgrounds and stand on the redistribution of wealth between rich and poor.

The study will soon be published in the respected scientific journal Psychological Science, but can already be found on Social Science Research Network.

'Survival of the fittest' also applies to politics
According to the evolution theory, the better adapted individuals have better potential for survival. When it comes to conflicts and the fight for resources, 'being better adapted' has often been a question of physical strength and the ability to fight for both humans and other animals.

And according to the new study, this also applies if the conflict is political rather than physical, says Michael Bang Petersen, Associate Professor and PhD  at the Department of Political Science and Government, Aarhus University.

- Generally speaking, politics is a discussion about allocating resources which intuitively makes men prepare for a fight for their self-interest because it is so deeply rooted in them. In order to understand political behaviour, we need to understand human evolutionary history. This involves, among other things, an unconscious link between physical strength and a tendency to fight for your own self-interest, says Michael Bang Petersen and explains the political consequences:

- If you are poor, it is in your own narrow self-interest to take as much from the rich as possible through redistribution. And the stronger a poor man is, the stronger his demand for redistribution. If you are rich, it is in your own interest to oppose claims from the poor. And the stronger a rich man is, the more reluctant he is to give money to the poor through redistribution.

Previous studies have shown that the flexed biceps on the dominant arm of a man can be used as a measure for his upper body strength. The participants' exercise patterns and general political ideologies are also taken into account in the study. 

Facts

  • 486 Americans, 223 Argentinians and 793 Danes were recruited for the study.
  • The study participants were asked about their socio-economic background and subsequently to specify to which degree they agreed/disagreed with a number of statements about redistribution.
  • Both men and women participated in the study, but no link was seen between physical strength and attitudes to redistribution among women.

Further information

 

Michael Bang Petersen
Associate Professor, PhD, Department of Political Science and Government
Aarhus University, School of Business and Social Sciences

E: michael@ps.au.dk
T: +45 8716 5729
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Revised 2014.04.10

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