For men, fight for status is fighting for genes: researchers

December 9th, 2008 - 2:32 pm ICT by IANS  

Washington, Dec 9 (IANS) For men, fighting for status is akin to fighting for the survival of their genes, and typically equals sex and the search for better quality partners, say researchers.The drive for sex and perpetuating one’s lineage can provoke fights over the littlest of things.

University of Minnesota (U-M) researcher Vladas Griskevicius aptly sums up in three words, why people tend to make a mountain out of molehill: aggression, status and sex and not necessarily in that order.

Griskevicius, marketing professor at the U-M Carlson School of Management, and his co-authors, have found conclusive evidence that merely activating a desire for status can trigger aggression.

“It all boils down to the fact that status for men typically equals sex. Across different cultures and time, the higher status men have, the more sex or better-quality partners they may have,” said Griskevicius.

“The one who wins the game - he’s the one that gets the girl. And at the end of the day, if those genes are passed on, the aggressor is the ultimate winner,” observed Griskevicius.

“At the gene-level, nobody wants to go down in an evolutionary blaze of glory - no one wants their genes to become extinct. Additionally, unlike low-status women, low-status men are in serious danger of not reproducing, since they make especially undesirable mates.”

“Think of it this way,” said Griskevicius, “for men, fighting for status is akin to fighting for the survival of their genes. Not caring about status, which can be implied by backing away from a fight, can be evolutionary suicide.

“Aggression can lead to status. A higher status leads to sex, and that leads to more or higher-quality offspring.”

The pull of aggression was shown in a series of three studies, said an U-M release.

Results showed that if men have status or sex on their minds (e.g., they are thinking about a promotion at work or an attractive women), they will more quickly respond aggressively to a trivial insult.

Men tend to respond even more aggressively when there are other men around to watch the situation, suggesting that much of aggression is about display, rather than self-defence.

Statistics reinforce this idea; police reports show that “trivial altercations” is the leading reason for homicide. But Griskevicius warns that his work should not suggest that people are attracted to aggression.

These findings are scheduled for publication in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology.

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