Muscular men less likely to support social and economic equality, study suggests

So conservatives are muscle-bound bullies?  That is what the authors would undoubtedly wish us to believe.  But as for proving it: Nice try but no cigar.  Their measurement of physical strength etc. was carefully done but their measurement of attitudes was naive.

They used two sets of questions ('scales') to measure attitudes.  The first was the Social Dominance Orientation scale principally associated with Jim Sidanius. It is rubbish, hopelessly multifactorial. So scores on it could mean many things or nothing.  See here for a detailed rundown of that scale.

The second scale is about redistribution of the wealth but I could find no answers to the things that psychometricians normally want to know about a scale:  Reliability, validity, internal consistency, factor loadings etc.  For present purposes however it suffices to assume that it was a well-constructed scale.

So the only findings of interest in the research are the correlations between the socialism scale and other variables. The academic journal article is "Is sociopolitical egalitarianism related to bodily and facial formidability in men?" and the research findings are in their Table 1. And we see there only a barely significant correlation of .19 between bodily formidability and support for redistribution.  That means that bodily formidability was only the most minor contributor to anti-socialist attitudes.

And when we note that the research was not conducted on any kind of representative sample but was based on an available group of students, we have to conclude that no generalizations from it at all can be justified.  The study proves nothing

Physically stronger men are less in favour of social and economic equality than weaker men, new research from Brunel University London indicates.

Dr Michael Price and colleagues assessed 171 men aged 18-40, collecting information on height, weight, waist size, flexed and relaxed muscle circumference, hand grip, and arm and chest strength.

They also surveyed participants 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’).

As well as focusing on bodily signs of perceived dominance, the researchers also focused on facial appearance: they had groups of independent raters view participants’ faces and rate whether they saw the men as dominant and attractive. They also used software to analyse faces in terms of the masculinity of their shape.

Prior research has shown several aspects of face shape and appearance, such as height-to-width ratio, are linked to ability to compete for resources in the modern world.

The results showed a significant correlation between those with higher bodily formidability and the belief that some social groups should dominate others. These men were also much less likely to support redistribution of wealth.

But contrary to predictions, there was no correlation between being considered attractive, as measured by waist-to-chest ratio and various facial measures, and whether or not the men supported ‘social dominance orientation’ or redistribution.

The study showed that more muscular men were less egalitarian, and the number of hours actually spent in the gym was also linked to having less egalitarian socioeconomic beliefs.


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