Why you should care
Whom we find attractive today influences the kids we have tomorrow.
It’s Friday, you’re at the bar, and you’re eyeing a sea of lovely women. When you finally get one of them to talk to you, you do the usual: lie about your job, say you’re not married. Then comes time to seal the deal. Which well-honed line do you pull out? Do you tell her you’re a war hero? Or do you claim to be an award-winning humanitarian? That’s it. Everyone loves a man of the people.
Next thing you know, she’s faking some emergency (“Crap! I forgot to feed my cat!”).
Shoulda gone with the ultra-masculine war hero, according to a new study published in the journal Evolution and Human Behavior. The U.K. and Dutch researchers were surprised to find:
Men who showed extraordinary bravery in a humanitarian crisis were no more attractive than those who simply showed up and drove a truck of food (not to say the latter isn’t a hero too). Male war heroes, on the other hand, were significantly more attractive in the eyes of women than your ordinary G.I. Joe.
The reason, researchers propose, is evolutionary: Combat is the perfect platform to peacock valuable mating traits like ability to protect offspring, commitment and altruism (at least for those in the same uniform). “There’s something unique about war,” says Mark van Vugt, the study’s co-author and professor of evolutionary biology at VU University Amsterdam. Maybe that’s why American Sniper was so damn popular.
Sure, but those are just findings from another study published in another journal of Shit That Doesn’t Seem to Be Very Connected to Reality. Wait — there’s more. Van Vugt and his team looked up how many kids were born of 123 American World War II Medal of Honor recipients. Turns out they were quite a bit more prolific as baby-makers than their nonmedaled comrades:
War heroes had
What about women? According to the research, ladies, proudly broadcasting your heroics to that cute guy isn’t a turn on. At all. In fact, they found female heroes were a bit less attractive. The answer could be evolutionary — that being in harm’s way has “implications for [women’s] well-being and ability to conceive,” says van Vugt. Or prevailing social norms like that only dudes can be strong, aggressive and fearless, says Zoe Peterson, an associate professor of psychology at the University of Missouri-St. Louis. Which, she adds, “is depressing.”