Does formidability influence moral and political attitudes?
Physical formidability has been important for much of human history, playing an important role in intra-sexual competition, and influencing attractiveness, status, and power. Previous research suggests that people adapt their expressed moral and political attitudes strategically. If so, individuals may respond to cues that they are more formidable by shifting the emphasis of their overt attitudes in a way that suits the interests of more powerful, higher-status individuals. Recent studies support this prediction, suggesting that formidability correlates with some political attitudes, and that upper-body strength is associated with greater self-interest in terms of attitudes towards wealth redistribution. The current studies tested the hypotheses that formidability is associated with more conservative attitudes, less support for wealth redistribution, and greater vigilance for violations of Authority and Loyalty-related moral norms. As predicted, Study 1 found correlations between formidability and more conservative attitudes, as well as harsher judgments of moral violations relating to loyalty and authority, and less harsh judgments of harm-based violations. Study 2 aimed to manipulate perceived formidability by either restraining participants or asking them to exercise, and found predicted effects on both Egalitarian Wealth Distribution and Social and Economic Conservatism, but did not find the predicted effects on moral judgments. Study 2 also found positive correlations in males but not females, between grip-strength and Social and Economic Conservatism. These results suggest that increased formidability may lead to more conservative and less financially egalitarian attitudes.