London, Sept. 9: Men need threats, rivalry and war for them to work together the most effectively, according to a study of the “Male Warrior Effect”.
The issue of why men start wars has been investigated in a series of experiments by Prof Mark van Vugt of the University of Kent. They reveal that conflict is part of male bonding.
“We all know that males are more aggressive than females but with that aggression comes a lot of co-operation,” Prof. van Vugt said yesterday. While male co-operation lies at the heart of democracy and leadership, and men work better in hierarchical groups than women, it is a double-edged sword.
“Men might need wars to show off their altruism, to be celebrated as warriors and heroes,” the professor added.
Women in general are better at co-operating. “Women leaders are more dovish than hawkish,” Prof. van Vugt said.
In a forthcoming issue of the journal Psychological Science, Prof van Vugt and colleagues in Kent and at the University of Tilburg describe laboratory tests which show that rivalry drives males to make sacrifices for their group more than women.
The experiments involved about 300 students. Equal numbers of men and women were divided into groups of six who could only interact by computer.
They were each given £3 that they could invest for the group, when it would be doubled and divided equally among the group, or keep for themselves. Those who did not co-operate reaped the most benefit. They would end up with £3 plus any money divided among the group.
But when the group was told it was competing with other universities, “it was the men who started to be very altruistic and invest in the group fund. The women were less sensitive”.
This “male warrior effect” is consistent with findings from other disciplines.
“Men are more likely to support their country going to war,” Prof van Vugt said. “Men are more likely to lead groups in more autocratic, militaristic ways.
“Men have evolved a psychology that makes them particularly interested, and able to engage, in warfare.”
Similar behaviours can be seen in a “pristine primordial form” in chimpanzees, he added.