As a society, our primate brains still dictate some of our perceptions, namely in sexual selection. Taryn Hillin from Fusion writes on an intriguing study about how attractive war-hero women are viewed by men — in short, not at all.

The study, published in Evolution and Human Behavior, set out to find if acts of bravery made men and women more attractive to the opposite sex. The data comprised of historical and experimental evidence to support the researchers' results.

In their research, they found that male World War II heroes produced more offspring than WWII veterans. What's more, in their experiments, women showed an increasing attraction to men, particularly war heroes — more so than any other group of men. The more decorated they were, the more attractive the women found them. Joost M. Leunissen, a psychologist and co-author on the study, attributes this attraction to evolution.

“For women, reproduction is a huge investment (heavy toll on the body), and you need others to provide you with food and protection. Women are thus evolved to look for a mate who can provide resources and commitment to help her raise offspring. War heroes can show these signals.”

In one of the experiments, consisting of 181 men and 151 women, the researchers asked participants to read a story about a war hero or a hero that had been in a crisis situation. The stories were the same for each of the groups — save for the gender of the characters. The men read about a female hero and vice versa. After the reading, the participants were then asked to answer a series of questions about the hero: “To what extent do you think [soldier’s name] is generally attractive?” or “Would you want to go on a date with [soldier’s name]?”

No surprise, the women responded positively toward the male hero they'd read about, finding the war hero the most attractive. However, men displayed no such attraction to the female hero they read about — in either situation — leading the authors to suggest, “Bravery in combat may not be a suitable domain for them to show their mate qualities.”

In order to explain this difference in attraction between male and female war heroes, Leunissen falls back on sexual selection theory, explaining to Fusion:

“Men look particularly for cues like youth and fertility (e.g., breasts) in women, whereas women pay more attention to cues of physical strength, resource power, and emotional commitment in men.”

Read more about the study at Fusion.

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