Why Tough Guys Get the Girl

August 29, 2008 01:30 AM
by Cara McDonough
A Stanford University study shows that in men, the hunger for women and property goes hand in hand with the evolution of belligerence and bravery.

Aggressive Men Win Land and Women

Aggressive men don’t only win fights; they may be more attractive to women from an evolutionary standpoint.

In a new study, a mathematical analysis of the evolution of war, Laurent Lehmann and Marc Feldman showed that “‘selective pressure’ on the genes linked with belligerence and bravery can be substantial even in groups of large size,” the Daily Telegraph reports.

The findings could be interpreted to mean that, throughout history, evolution has consistently chosen the most aggressive, audacious group, and that aggressive men received genetic or cultural traits, giving them an advantage to prosper and multiply.

The Times of London explains the sexual aspect of the study: “New research suggests that braver soldiers may ultimately win more sexual partners as well as more battles, and that the extra chances to spread their genes can outweigh the risk of dying in combat.”

In traditional hunter-gatherer societies, conquering neighboring tribes brought two distinct advantages to aggressive men. First, by having sex with perished enemies’ wives, the most courageous of warriors could have more offspring with the same genes. Secondly, the men captured additional territory.

“This has consequences for our understanding of the evolution of intertribal interactions
, as hunter-gatherer societies are well known to have frequently raided neighbouring groups from whom they appropriated territory, goods and women,” said Lehmann and Feldman.

Related Topic: Evolutionary psychology in modern times

Evolutionary psychology and genetic studies are often used to describe modern behaviors.

When politicians, including New York Governor Eliot Spitzer, admitted earlier this year to cheating on their spouses, media outlets began to question a seeming upswing of unfaithful behavior in recent months.

Evolutionary psychologists say that there is not a modern infidelity epidemic, but instead, that cheating might be hard wired in our genes. Evolutionary psychology predicts that males, particularly, may be more promiscuous than females because of their ability to father, theoretically, hundreds of children over a lifetime.

Psychologists agreed, however, being genetically predisposed to act a certain way does not make it right.

Another recent genetic study suggested that women on birth control pills choose less optimal mates. The University of Newcastle study showed that while people with different major histocompatibility complex genes, or MHC, have more satisfying relationships and are less likely to cheat, women on the pill are more likely to choose mates with a similar MHC.

The MHC-similarity can apparently lead to fertility problems, but could also lead to the breakdown of the relationship when the woman goes off the birth control pill, according to study researchers. Critics were wary of the findings, however.

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