Body Markers of Egalitarianism – Muscularity and Physical Attractiveness
According to research led by Michael Price, Brunel University, UK, it is possible to predict a person’s beliefs about human egalitarianism based on two important visible characteristics.
A person is egalitarian in as much as he or she believes that social status and resources should be shared equally within social groups. From an evolutionary fitness perspective, a person should be less egalitarian when they have more to lose than they would otherwise. That is, if a person has more to gain, than lose, from adopting a particular policy, he or she will not abide by it, and it will not be part of their political stance. After all, inequality is not universally harmful to all people, as even in inequality a certain subset of people can uniquely benefit.
In modern time, egalitarianism has implications for beliefs about taxes, welfare and civil rights.
It turns out that there are two main predictors that tend to provider people with an unequal share of the spoils in current (and likely ancestral past_: physical attractiveness (in both sexes), and height and muscularity in men.
In the study, 118 participants were scanned with 3D scanning technology to calculate anthropometric measurements. The participants then filled out egalitarianism measures including social dominance and social value orientations.
The results found that muscularity and waist-chest ratio in men and self-perceived attractiveness in both men and women was significantly associated with the four measures of egalitarianism.
Men with more muscular upper bodies were significantly less egalitarian. This makes sense in an evolutionary context because it is these men who would have been more capable of procuring resources and protecting them against theft. In contrast, height had no bearing on egalitarianism, which the researchers suggest might be due to the fact that it might not have been as important to ancient civilizations as did overall muscularity. Waist-hip-ratio was also not correlated with egalitarianism in women suggesting that overall attractiveness is something different than something that can be measured by the ratio itself.
Nevertheless, the study presents additional correlations which can help the nonverbalist gain some possible impressions about people based on outer appearances. Seeing a muscular attractive man or an attractive women, tells us that they are the most likely to support competition rather than egalitarianism and this is in direct response to the fact that they are most likely to receive a greater share of the spoils when it comes to resources.
Price, Michael E.; Jinsheng Kang; James Dunn and Sian Hopkins. Muscularity and attractiveness as predictors of human egalitarianism. Personality and Individual Differences. 2011. 50: 636–640.