MedicalResearch.com eInterview with: Michael Bang Petersen
Associate Professor, PhD
Department of Political Science
Aarhus University, Denmark
MedicalResearch.com: What are the main findings of the study?
While many think of politics as a modern phenomenon, politics has – in a sense – been with our species always. Our ancestors have been group living animals for millions of years and it would be surprising if natural selection had not shaped our ancestors’ psychology to navigate core political situations including how to manage resource conflicts. In this article, we applied this insight to the study of attitudes towards economic redistribution and theorized about the kinds of factors that an evolved psychology of conflict navigation would consider important. Given that we evolved in small-scale groups and many conflicts would have to be settled face-to-face, one such factor – at least, for males – would be physical strength. Essentially, stronger males should be more likely to escalate conflicts and pursuit their self-interest. On modern political issues of economic redistribution, self-interest is determined by socio-economic status (SES). Individuals with high SES have an interest in decreasing redistribution, whereas individuals with low SES have an interest in increasing redistribution. On this basis, an adaptationist perspective on the psychology of redistribution attitudes predicts that for rich males upper-body strength should decrease support for redistribution. For poor males, in contrast, upper-body strength should increase support for redistribution. This is what we found in three highly different countries: the United States, Denmark and Argentina. Cross countries, physically strong males opted for the self-interested political position.