Study finds physically weak men favor socialism

This post first appeared at Fellowship of the Minds

A study, led by UK Brunel University London psychologist Dr. Michael Price, found that physically weaker men are more in favor of socialism (“social and economic equality”) than stronger men.

The study by Michael Price, Jennifer Sheehy-Skeffington (London School of Economics), psychologist James Sidnaius (Harvard U.), and psychologist Nicholas Pound (Brunel U. London), “Is sociopolitical egalitarianism related to bodily and facial formidability in men?,” is published in the journal Evolution and Human Behavior, 38:5 (September 2017), pp. 626-634.

Citing prior research showing several aspects of male face shape and appearance, such as height-to-width ratio, to be linked to ability to compete for resources in the modern world, the Brunel study employed the following methodology:

  • A sample of 171 men, aged 18-40: 98% were students; 51% White, 25% Asian, 11% Black, 6% mixed, and 6% other.
  • These information were collected from the men: their height, weight, waist size, flexed and relaxed muscle circumference, hand grip, and arm and chest strength.
  • The men were also surveyed on how often they go to the gym, their wealth, whether they support the redistribution of wealth, and whether they approve of the idea that some social groups should have dominance over others (“social dominance orientation”).
  • Independent raters were asked to rate the men’s dominance and attractiveness.
  • Researchers also used software to analyze the men’s faces in terms of the masculinity of their shape.

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As the study puts it:

Our study tested … 171 men, using two sociopolitical egalitarianism measures: social dominance orientation and support for redistribution. Predictors included bodily formidability and attractiveness and four facial measures (attractiveness, dominance, masculinity, and width-to-height ratio). We also controlled for time spent lifting weights, and experimentally manipulated self-perceived formidability in an attempt to influence egalitarianism.

Findings:

  • The study found a significant positive correlation (r[168] = 0.22, p= 0.004) between men with higher “bodily formidability” (upper body muscularity and strength) and social dominance orientation (SDO). SDO is the most widely-used index of support for social inequality in social and political psychology. In other words, the more muscular the men, the more likely is the belief that social groups are not equal.
  • The study found a significant negative correlation (r[169] = − 0.19, p= 0.012) between “bodily formidability” and support for wealth redistribution. In other words, physically weaker men were more likely to favor socialism.
  • The study found some negative correlation between the number of hours spent in the gym and support for socioeconomic equality, as well as between wealth and support for egalitarianism. However, “bodily formirability” is the best predictor of sociopolitical egalitarianism.
  • The study did not find significant correlations between SDO or support for redistribution and either bodily attractiveness (waist-chest ratio) or any of the facial measures of attractiveness, dominance, fWHR (facial width-to-heigh ratio), and masculinity.

Lead author Price said:

“We believe that this link between perceived formidability and egalitarianism could be explained in a number of ways. It could be the result of men calibrating their egalitarianism to their own formidability. It could be the case that less egalitarian men strive harder to become muscular. Or there could be a third variable at play affecting both egalitarianism and muscularity.

Our results suggest that wealthier men who are more formidable physically are more likely to oppose redistribution of wealth. Essentially, they seem more motivated to defend their resources. But less wealthy men who are still physically formidable don’t seem more inclined to support redistribution either. They’re not demanding a share of the wealth.

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