Rusch, H., Leunissen, J. M., & Van Vugt, M. (2015). Historical and experimental evidence of sexual selection for war heroism. Evolution and Human Behavior, http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.evolhumbehav.2015.02.005

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Abstract

We report three studies which test a sexual selection hypothesis for male war heroism. Based

on evolutionary theories of mate choice we hypothesize that men signal their fitness through

displaying heroism in combat. First, we report the results of an archival study on US-American soldiers

who fought in World War II. We compare proxies for reproductive success between a control sample of

449 regular veterans and 123 surviving Medal of Honor recipients of WWII. Results suggest that the

heroes sired more offspring than the regular veterans. Supporting a causal link between war heroism

and mating success, we then report the results of two experimental studies (N's = 92 and 340). We find

evidence that female participants specifically regard men more sexually attractive if they are war

heroes. This effect is absent for male participants judging female war heroes, suggesting that bravery

in war is a gender specific signal. Finally, we discuss possible implications of our results.

 

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