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UCSB study finds physical strength, fighting ability revealed in human faces
Date:10/22/2008

the photographs depicted men whose strength had been measured precisely on weight-lifting machines, the researchers found an almost perfect correlation between perceptions of fighting ability and perceptions of strength. "When you see that kind of correlation it's telling you you're measuring the same underlying variable," said Tooby.

They also found that perceptions of strength and fighting ability reflected the target's actual strength, as measured on weight-lifting machines at the gym. In other sections of the study, the researchers showed that this result extended far beyond the gym. Both men and women accurately judge men's strength, whether those men are drawn from a general campus population, a hunter-horticulturalist group in Bolivia, or a group of herder-horticulturalists living in the Argentinian Andes.

Leg strength was measured along with upper body strength in both the United States and Bolivian populations, but the results showed that perceptions of men's strength and fighting ability reflect upper body strength, not that of legs. "That makes sense," said Cosmides. "If, for example, you're trying to lift something really heavy, or run a long distance, your lower body your legs will also be significant. But for fighting at close quarters, it's the upper body that really matters."

Added Tooby: "Whether people are assessing toughness or strength, it's upper body strength they implicitly register. And that's the critical information our ancestors needed in deciding or feeling whether to surrender a disputed resource or escalate aggressively."

The researchers suggest that the ability to judge physical strength and fighting ability serves different, but equally important, purposes for men and women. In men, the mechanism is a barometer for measuring potential threats and determining how aggressive or submissive they should be when facing a possible enemy. For women, the mechanism helps identify males who can adequa
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Contact: Andrea Estrada
andrea.estrada@ia.ucsb.edu
805-893-4620
University of California - Santa Barbara
Source:Eurekalert  

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