SCIENCE
10/23/2012 03:31 pm ET

Muscular Strength-Politics Study Shows Strong Men More Likely To Assert Self-Interest

Are political views a matter of muscles?

A new paper published online in the journal Psychological Science suggests that muscular strength can be predictive of political beliefs--at least in men.

The study showed that buff guys are more likely to stand up for their own self-interest when it comes to the redistribution of wealth, The Economist reported. In practical terms, that means muscular men of low socioeconomic status tend to show greater support for redistribution whereas muscular men of high economic status tend to show greater opposition to redistribution.

"In this research we show that upper body strength modulates men's willingness to assert their self-interested position," study co-author Dr. Daniel Sznycer, a researcher at the University of California, Santa Barbara's Center for Evolutionary Psychology, told The Huffington Post in an e-mail. "What counts as a self-interested position regarding redistribution varies with your socio-economic status."

For the study, Sznycer and study co-author Dr. Michael Petersen of the University of Aarhus in Denmark recruited 486 Americans, 223 Argentinians and 793 Danes--measuring strength by recording the circumference of each man's flexed biceps and then using a questionnaire to measure his support for wealth redistribution, according to The Economist.

The researchers said the link between physical strength and self-interest likely has been around throughout human evolutionary history, as upper body strength is key to fighting ability and self-defense. In a conflict, a strong male is less likely to back down when it comes to acquiring or defending resources--at least among wild animals.

Sznycer said in the e-mail that no link is seen between strength and attitudes about redistribution among women. However, some researchers suggest the assertion of self-interest among women might be linked not to strength but to physical attractiveness.

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