Bicep Size Predicts Politics


Credit: Laures: Dreamstime

A new study in Psychological Science reports that bicep size and preferences for wealth redistribution correlate. If you're rich and have big guns you're against redistribution. On the other hand, if you're poor and muscle bound, you favor redistribution. The idea is that more upper body strength rouses a man (the effect was not found in women) to defend his self-interests, e.g, protect what you have if you're rich and try to grab more, if you're poor. In contrast, the rich 98-pound weaklings were less interested in preventing redistribution and the poor shrimps were less concerned about trying take from the rich. As the abstract of the article, "The Ancestral Logic of Politics: Upper Body Strength Regulates Men's Assertion of Self-Interest Over Economic Redistribution," reads:

Over human evolutionary history, upper-body strength has been a major component of fighting ability. Evolutionary models of animal conflict predict that actors with greater fighting ability will more actively attempt to acquire or defend resources than less formidable contestants will. Here, we applied these models to political decision making about redistribution of income and wealth among modern humans. In studies conducted in Argentina, Denmark, and the United States, men with greater upper-body strength more strongly endorsed the self-beneficial position: Among men of lower socioeconomic status (SES), strength predicted increased support for redistribution; among men of higher SES, strength predicted increased opposition to redistribution. Because personal upper-body strength is irrelevant to payoffs from economic policies in modern mass democracies, the continuing role of strength suggests that modern political decision making is shaped by an evolved psychology designed for small-scale groups.

Hmmm. It's probably too much to conclude that a lot of our political problems could be solved if we could persuade our egalitarian buddies to stay away from the gym.

Disclosure: What are biceps? And yet I abhor redistribution.