Historical and experimental evidence of sexual selection for war heroism
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
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.