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ChangingMinds Blog! > Blog Archive > 11-Jan-15

 


Sunday 11-January-15

Males, mates, aggression and war

Are men the cause of all evil? Some feminists believe so, even to the point of thinking that if we could just get rid of them all, the world would be a much better place. But of course there's that sticky question of fertilization and children. It takes two to make a baby and both men and women are driven to engage in the act of sexual intercourse. Given the later pain of childbirth, it is a testament to nature's drives that women go anywhere near men. Also that the aggressor in abusive relationships is very largely the man.

So is it true? Are men naturally warlike? Is it in their nature to fight, and fight big? Researchers Lei Chang and colleagues showed heterosexual men just a picture of attractive women's legs and then tested their attitudes. They found that the legs provoked more aggression towards hostile other countries, and led the men to find a soldier or war-related words on a computer screen. Looking at men's legs did not have this effect.

Men have a natural attraction towards beautiful women (mostly because firm breasts, clear skin and so on are also indicators of fertility). And, naturally, they are most attracted to the most beautiful women. So the more attractive the woman, the more men she will have seeking her out as a mate. Which means they must compete for her, and in a tribal situation that includes literally being able to fight off other men. This can be helpful for the women too, (if she has a choice) as powerful men will give her status in the tribe, will protect her and her children and of course will pass on those powerful genes to her children.

So how does this translate to war? After all fighting the next man is not the same as all out war against the next tribe. Perhaps it is a simply a fact of generalized aggression, and that the leader of a primitive tribe is likely to be the most aggressive, just to keep his place (and get the first choice of women). Yet this does not fully explain the experiment. This would seem to be case of priming, where the aggression triggered by the women's legs has momentum, simply keeping on going such that it informs and biases any subsequent short-term decisions.

Reference:
L Chang, H Lu, H Li, and T Li (2011). The Face That Launched a Thousand Ships: The Mating-Warring Association in Men. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin. 37,7, 976-984


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