Is Formidability Associated with Political Conservatism?

  • Nicholas KerryEmail author
  • Damian R. Murray
Research Article


Physical formidability has played an important role in intra-sexual competition throughout human history, influencing social capital and, in turn, social cognition. However, the degree to which physical formidability is associated with social and political attitudes in contemporary environments remains poorly understood. The current studies tested the hypotheses that formidability is associated with more politically conservative attitudes and, more specifically, less support for financial egalitarianism and more approval of military intervention. Across three studies, comprised of both online and undergraduate samples (two pre-registered; total N > 900), we found some evidence that both self-reported formidability and grip strength were associated with higher levels of conservatism. However, this evidence was inconsistent across different measures and across samples, with relatively small effects for some conservatism measures and no effects for others. There also emerged sex differences, such that self-reported formidability was a better predictor of conservatism in women and objective grip strength was a better predictor of conservatism in men. Unlike previous research, we did not find consistent evidence of a relationship between formidability and either financial egalitarianism or military approval. Attempted experimental manipulations of formidability in studies 2 and 3 yielded inconsistent results.


Political attitudes Human capital Strategic morality Formidability Conservatism Pre-registration 


Compliance with Ethical Standards

Conflict of Interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.


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Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of PsychologyTulane UniversityNew OrleansUSA

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