Caveman Politics: Evolutionary Leadership Preferences and Physical Stature

Gregg R. Murray, J. David Schmitz

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

56 Scopus citations


Objective: Following evolutionary psychology, we argue that physical stature matters in preferences regarding political leadership. Particularly, a preference for physically formidable leaders evolved to promote survivability in the violent human ancestral history. Methods: We present two studies of original data to assess individual attitudes regarding the association between physical stature and political leadership. Analytical methods include ordered probit regression. Results: The findings are consistent with the evolutionary theory presented here. Study 1 indicates that individuals tend to prefer leaders with greater physical stature, while Study 2 indicates that males with greater physical stature are more likely to think of themselves as qualified to be a leader and, through this increased sense of efficacy, they are more likely to demonstrate interest in pursuing a leadership position. Conclusion: Consistent with emerging evidence from other research perspectives, political behavior, in this case preferences regarding political leadership, is shaped by both environmental and evolutionary forces.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1215-1235
Number of pages21
JournalSocial Science Quarterly
Issue number5
StatePublished - Dec 1 2011
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Social Sciences(all)


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