Guest Associate Professor at ISG – Business & Economics School of Lisbon
Associate partner Hofstede Insights Portugal
This article seeks to understand why sport in general, and certain sports activities in particular, tend to be more practiced by men. It is suggested that behind this phenomenon will be strategies associated with male and female behavior that are inscribed in the different signaling strategies with reproductive final objectives.
Understanding human behavior through evolutionary lenses implies going beyond immediate explanations and also seeking absolute explanations. To understand this, it is necessary to understand not only the ontogeny of the behavior (mechanism and development) but its phylogeny (function and origin). I propose that the “hypothesis of male warrior and the crazy bastard” together, can give a deeper explanation as to why men, more than women, practice more sports and some are even an exclusive male.
Evolution, Intra sexual competition, Men, Reproduction, Sexual Strategy, , Sport
Men, women and the practice of sport: what is hidden behind it?
What does our evolutionary psychology tell us about this?
Why do men play more sport than women? From the “male warrior” to the “crazy bastard hypothesis”: an evolutionary perspective
An analysis of the main literature in the social sciences shows that there are multiple examples of human tribalism, as well as a propensity for individuals to categorize themselves based on their group affiliation favoring treatment of members of their group. Several authors, with particular emphasis on Mark van Vugt (2006), believe that this phenomenon is a group and adaptive response to the threats of the conflicting group coalitions of human males, both in ancestral environments and in modern environments, having affected the psychology of men and women in different ways.
In this article I seek a reflection from the evolutionary point of view that helps us understand and explain why men are more prone to the practice of sport and why some sports are practically a male exclusive.
Men, women and the practice of sport: what is hidden behind it?
That men die earlier and earlier than women, commit more crimes and more violence, have more accidents, take more risks, write more books, master humor, occupy most positions of power and leadership in societies and organizations and are war-takers, it is a fact based on history, our common experience and all available statistics.
I propose that the fact that men, more than women, are also playing and watching sports, is part of this evolutionary line of something that is more important to men than to women. The reason is also relatively understandable from the evolutionary point of view. It is that, as Steve Stewart-Williams (2020) pointed out, the “general rule remains: what females want, males evolve to provide it”.
On the whole, all this seems to be related to the so-called “male warrior hypothesis” proposed by Mark van Vugt, David de Cremer and Dirk P. Janssen (2007) and can help to understand and explain the difference that men have in their relationship with sports practice and also in their support of it as spectators, which is significantly higher than that of women when compared. It is that, as in other activities mentioned above, sport and its practice are also essentially dominated by men, whether as practitioners or as spectators. And once again, the evolutionary paradigm can help us understand this if we perceive the origin and root of the phenomenon. That’s what I’m on next.
What does our evolutionary psychology tell us about this?
The answer will probably be for the same reason that they also commit more crimes, write more books, take more risks and have more need to occupy positions of power and leadership in all areas of life in society. It is that, whenever they can, men seek and try to signal their abilities, qualities and resources in the great storefront of reproduction.
As Lombardo (2012) argued, “sport evolved in the context of male intrasexual competition…a system that allows athletes to display, and male spectators to evaluate, the (physical) qualities of potential allies and rivals, particularly those necessary for warfare”
According to this author, sport began as a way for men to develop the skills needed in primitive hunting and warfare, and then developed to act primarily as a lek where athletes display, and male spectators evaluate the qualities of potential allies and rivals.
Again, as Lombardo put it, “the most popular modern male sports require the skills needed for success in male-male physical competition and primitive hunting and warfare, champion male athletes obtain high status and thereby reproductive opportunities in ways that parallel those gained by successful primitive hunters and warriors; men pay closer attention than do women to male sports so they can evaluate potential allies and rivals, and male sports became culturally more important when opportunities to evaluate potential allies and rivals declined as both the survival importance of hunting and the proportion of men who experience combat decreased.” So, in a way we should approach the practice and the evolution of sports as an adaptive hypothesis.
Sporting events, as the statistics of the live television broadcasts show it, are the ones that capture the most attention and the most audiences have in the world.
We’ll ask, why? Why are human beings in general, and men in particular, so attracted to this type of activity that they are thousands of years old? What does our evolutionary psychology tell us about this? In fact, it says a lot.
If we look closely, most sports activities have, in a sense, some whatsoever about activities that our ancestors had to perform simply to survive. Whether running, throwing, jumping, rowing, chasing or trying to dominate opponents, to conquer any goal, both physically and through some object (such as the ball, for example) are examples of this.
In sports with a strong physical component (which are the majority of them, in fact), men are more likely and numerous to practice them, either in quantity or in quality of their own performance. In addition, men have about 30 times more testosterone than women, being stronger, faster and more aggressive, something that, in ancient and adaptive times, has always been important to ensure the survival of themselves and their groups or tribes, both in war, as in the conquest of territories and resources, or in defense against predators or enemies, or, still, simply, in the hunt.
The so-called “warrior man hypothesis”, coined and proposed by scientists Mark van Vugt, David de Cremer and Dirk P. Janssen (2007), seems to be the best way to understand this phenomenon from an evolutionary point of view.
This scientist suggests that male psychology was essentially shaped during our evolution by the need for cooperation within groups and competition between groups, whether to conquer, acquire or protect reproductive and scarce resources. Thus, gender-specific selective pressures will have favored cooperation among the group members, combined with the manifest hostility and aggression against foreigners. This hypothesis is supported by investigations (Bowles & Gintis, 2011; Halevy, Bornstein, & Sagiv, 2009) suggesting that the scenario of conflict between groups promotes cooperation and internal cohesion among members of the ingroup and aggression against members of the outgroup.
And there is yet another hypothesis, called, in the original, by “The Crazy Bastard Hypothesis” , which hold that taking risks, voluntarily, and engaging in dangerous nonviolent activities has, in itself, a signaling value of abilities and qualities of those who do so.
In fact, in 2014, researchers from UCLA (Fessler, D.M. T., Tiokhin, L. B., Holbrook, C., Gervais, M. M., & Snyder, J. K.) sought to find out why young people are disproportionately involved in both violent and nonviolent activities in which both entail high risks of injury or even death. This is how the so-called “crazy bastard hypothesis” came about. As mentioned above, this hypothesis proposes that young people are attracted to dangerous activities and to take risks, because they thus reveal their courage, a propensity that makes a man be faced either as a dangerous enemy and/or a potential useful ally. Interestingly, the researchers found also that people tend to conceive of men and their propensity to take risks as being larger and stronger, although in reality there is no link between size or physical size and the propensity to take risk. It is likely that this voluntary risk-taking guidance can serve as a capacity signaling function, so that risk-prone individuals are seen as “more formidable” than individuals averse to it. 
This is probably also, alongside the previous “male warrior hypothesis”, one of the reasons that helps us understand and explain why men, more than women, play more sports and, especially, why, also, some of these sports activities, which are dangerous, are typical when not exclusive to men.
It is worth highlighting three important aspects: first, we know that men tend to expose themselves much more to dangerous displays and situations of greater risk (such as war), seeking, whenever they can, to display their capabilities and resources in the mating showcase. Corroborating this idea is the fact that, globally, men commit more than 85% of all homicides, 91% of all same-sex homicides and 97% of all homicides between men and women and the killer are unrelated to each other..
Second, the “relative value” of men for reproduction is lower than that of women because the number of sperm of man is much higher than the number of eggs of a woman, which makes the latter “more” valuable and less risk-prone (since the potential danger that comes from the death of the mother to her descendants had always been a crucial factor for her survival).
Third, sports that imply more radicalism or extreme reach are more common among men than among women given the greater male variability of behaviour.
In this vein, a relatively recent study (Thöni & Volk, 2021) suggests that men are generally much more likely than women to make choices and make extreme decisions. In an investigation involving more than 50,000 participants spread across 97 samples, an investigation team sought to analyses sexual differences in areas such as altruism, cooperation, trust, justice and attitudes towards time and risk in economic decision-making. Evidence of greater and systematic male variability was found, and the results suggest that men’s most extreme choices and decisions may be both positive and negative. This study points out that men, compared to women, have much more possibilities of being at the extremes of the behavioral spectrum, acting in a way, now very selfish, or very selfless, now very confident or very suspicious, “[…] being more focused on both the very short and the very long term.
In short, when men show off and take risks by exercising in sports, what they do is continue to signal their abilities, qualities and resources in terms of their general condition. And they do so because the performance of such practices conveys valuable information in the mating market, a market that is characterized by a general rule that seems to remain this: men compete and women choose from where, any athlete to become a valuable asset in terms of potential mating value.
Put another way, “honest signaling of abilities”, or the “handicap principle“, gains, here, a key highlight to understand and explain why men are more likely to practice all kinds of sports with strong physical component. And even in those who are highly mechanical and not fundamentally physical, they also serve to display the courage and resilience of their performers, or their intelligence (as in the case of chess).
As we know, all this information is important in the market and in the mating showcase. It should not surprise us, therefore, that, in our societies, the best male athletes (regardless of the sport practiced) are individuals with more demand for the mating value they represent. Therefore, looking at this phenomenon from this perspective, it is best to see why sports are so important, in particular, for men. Perhaps this will help explain why in some motor sports it is found that there are almost no women doing so (formula 1 or motorcycle racing, etc.).
If we want to understand human behavior through evolutionary lenses we need to look for absolute explanations and not just approximate. Thus, it is as important to perceive the ontogeny of behaviors (mechanism and development) as their phylogeny (function and origin). Only in this way will we be able to fully understand what explains certain differences between men and women as an integral part of deeper strategies that are associated, although not so, with reproductive strategies inscribed in nature, beyond cultural differences and not because of them.
If we accept both hypothesis (“male warrior and the crazy bastard”)”, combined with the “handicap principle”, we will better understand and explain why men, much more than women, are the main protagonists and sports practitioners.
References and other recommended bibliography and readings
Bowles, S. (2009). Did warfare among ancestral hunter-gatherer groups affect the evolution of human social behaviors. Science, 324 (5932), 1293-129–8. https://doi.org/10.1126/science.1168112.
Daniel. T et all. “Foundations of the Crazy Bastard Hypothesis: Nonviolent physical risk-taking enhances conceptualized formidability”, Evolution and Human Behavior, Vol. 35, Issue 1, 2014, p. 26-33,
Lombardo MP. On the Evolution of Sport. Evolutionary Psychology. January 2012. doi:10.1177/147470491201000101
Massar, K. (2022). Men’s Intrasexual Competition. In T. Shackelford (Ed.), The Cambridge Handbook of Evolutionary Perspectives on Sexual Psychology (Cambridge Handbooks in Psychology, pp. 84-110). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. doi:10.1017/9781108943543.006
Miller, G. (2001). The mating mind. Nature. London: Random House.
Moller (Eds.), Annals of the NY Academy of Sciences: Vol. 907. Evolutionary perspectives on human reproductive behaviour (pp. 114-131). New York: New York Academy of Sciences.
Thöni, C., & Volk, S. (2021). Converging evidence for greater male variability in time, risk, and social preferences.” Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 118(23), e2026112118. https://doi.org/10.1073/pnas.2026112118.
Tracy, J., & Robins, R. (2004). Show your pride: Evidence for a discrete emotion expression. Psychological Science, 15, 194-197. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.0956-7976.2004.01503008.x.
Trivers, R., & Seger, J. (1986). Asymmetry in the evolution of female mating preferences. Nature,
Van Vugt, M. (2008). Follow me: The origins of leadership. New Scientist, June 11.
Van Vugt, M. M., King, A., Johnson, D. (2009). The origins and evolution of leadership. Current Biology, 19, R911-R916. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.cub.2009.07.027.
Van Vugt, M., & Giphart, R. (2016). Mismatch – How our stone age brain deceives us every day & what we can do about it. London: Robinson.
Van Vugt, M., & Spisak, R. (2008). Sex differences in the emergence of leadership during competitions within and between groups. Sage Journal, 19. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1467-9280.2008.02168.x.
van Vugt, M., de Cremer, D., & Janssen, D. P. (2007). Gender differences in cooperation and competition: The male-warrior hypothesis. Psychological Science, 18(1), 19-23. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1467-9280.2007.01842.x.
Zahavi, A., (1997). The handicap principle: A missing piece of Darwin’s puzzle. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
 Lombardo MP. On the Evolution of Sport. Evolutionary Psychology. January 2012. doi:10.1177/147470491201000101
 Maybe you don’t know, but men are also much more likely to watch sporting events involving physical confrontations (such as boxing or martial arts), or in which cooperation plays a key role, such as football, basketball, handball, hockey or any other team games. In fact, statistics suggest that men, on average, watch three times more than women at sporting events and experience these same events in a much more intense and dramatic way, often ending in physical confrontations or hospitalizations.
 See on this subject, Daniel M.T. Fessler, Leonid B. Tiokhin, Colin Holbrook, Matthew M. Gervais, Jeffrey K. Snyder, In “Foundations of the Crazy Bastard Hypothesis: Nonviolent physical risk-taking enhances conceptualized formidability,”, Evolution and Human Behavior, Vol. 35, Issue 1, 2014, pp. 26-33,
 In fact, other researchers had already described this tendency of young people to take risks as something designated as “young male syndrome”.
Despite more than 900 drivers having participated in F1 Grand Stakes in the past 73 years, only two riders have been women (i.e., 0.002%): Maria Teresa de Filippis (1958) and Lella Lombardi (1975 and 1976).
For example, with the say , for every 100 women aged between 20 and 24 who die of homicide, thus die 717 men, and for every 100 women who are in adult prisons, there are 1,000 men (Sources: Federal Bureau of Prisons, National Center for Health Statistics, cited by author Thomas Mortenson and Congressional Research Service; ScienceDaily; Bureau of Labor Statistics; Census Bureau).
 Previous research involved two large-scale meta-analyses of economic decision-making studies and organizational citizenship behavior with more than 20,000 participants. Although the researchers found no differences in the degree to which men and women behaved cooperatively on average, they found strong evidence of greater male variability in cooperation. It seems clear to me that these differences will most likely have evolutionary roots, coexisting with other alternative explanations for the existence of what is often referred to as greater male variability of behavior..
 In particular , their mental and physical abilities, their flexibility, endurance and courage, as well as dexterity and coordination skills
 This makes perfect sense, because if women prefer to mate with men with more abilities, qualities or resources, then men seek to increase their reproductive prospects by displaying their abilities, and sports activity is a good means to signal it, not being very different from the “peacock tail”.
Originally formulated by biologist Amot Zahavi. To learn more, Vd. Zahavi (1975); Zahavi and Zahavi (1997). In short, the principle of handicap, as is known, postulates that all behaviors (or characteristics) that are costly to their holders (and are therefore difficult to fake) tend to be an honest way of signaling the qualities and resources of their owners.
Many behavioural scientists believe that the phenomenon of identity can be analysed from two perspectives. On the one hand, from an individual point of view, identity serves to characterize and distinguish each person, having natural and socially constructed elements and that its main characteristics are continuity and contrast, both functioning as symbolic signs. On the other hand, as an evolutionary species, humans have always been dependent on groups for survival, and therefore, it is natural that identity has so much to do with the individual, his relationships, decisions, life trajectory and feelings attached to his experience and how he sees himself and thinks that others see him. With regard to social identity, it is proposed that it evolved from the tribal social instinct and the relationships between individuals, based on similarities and, therefore, becoming the main element that promotes social trust, in addition to affiliation. In this article, we reflect on the isomorphism of the identity concept in its various applications in general and its consequences in particular for the construction of trust and social navigation in the context of human evolution.
What is identity: the importance of limiting an isomorphic concept
Let’s start with the principle. When we talk about identity what are we talking about? This is a recurring problem in behavioural sciences and perhaps the first to consider, that is, to delineate the concept and its meaning because, as with many other concepts (such as culture and personality), one thing is the form (the word), and another is the meaning (the sense).
In terms of origin, identity can mean several things. Right from the start, the “fact of being who or what a person or thing is; a similarity or close affinity; the distinct character or personality of an individual; individuality or the relationship established by psychological rapport and, the quality of what is identical, parity or absolute equality or set of characteristics (whether physical and / or psychological) essential and distinctive of someone, a social group or something.”
As we can see, identity has multiple meanings, referring to categories, social roles, or even, simply, to information about us and others.
Identities, therefore, emerge from a need to distinguish between the inner self and the world around us, just as they emerge from the inner “we” of groups in relation to other groups in the outside world. In either case, it recognizes the existence of “me” or “we”. We conclude that, in evolutionary terms, identity matters and identities themselves are as old as the so-called behaviourally modern human beings.
In summary, identity is always something that characterizes and distinguishes one thing from another. Bearing this in mind, we will discuss and reflect on its function, origin, construction mechanism, development and describe some of the consequences, both from the individual identity and evolutionary perspectives as a group´s social phenomenon associated with the resolution of humans´ adaptive challenges (Giddens, 1991Tinbergen, 2005).
Foundations of identity: function, origin, mechanism and development.
It is clear that identity serves a purpose, which is to provide uniqueness that distinguishes it from other identities, characterizes it, and gives it continuity, while also providing contrast to other things or people. As a result, identity ensures differentiation.
Identity also serves as a signal to acknowledge one’s existence, as an individual or as a group, and is thus a form of recognition in and of itself. When considering its evolutionary origins, we must first determine what kind of identity we are referring to, as it relates to individuals and groups, structures, institutions, countries, believes and ideas.
What´s common about all of the above is a characterization and differentiation method. Identity is constructed through the attraction and convergence of similar elements that, after being organised and stabilized, provide a characterization of and for itself, and others. Its evolutionary function is natural from the perspective of coalitional psychology, which has always defined and guided human survival and is embedded in our minds. Coalitional psychology combines our ancestors’ intuitive and adaptive mechanisms as a set of symbolic capabilities that allow people to create and signal alliances and solidarities, as well as mark their membership, commitment, and loyalty. This natural and intuitive mechanism may have become more important as groups grew in size, acting as a foundation for both internal cohesion and competition for resources and dominance.
From natural to social identity
Identity is part of our need for recognition (Fukuyama, 2018) and the coalitional psychology that characterizes us (Boyer, 2018). It incorporates how people perceive and identify themselves and compare to other individuals or groups. Being by name, profession, ethnic or national origin, stage of life, or any other categorizing element, the causes and origin of identity lie in the need for recognition and differentiation between individuals or within and in relation to groups, as well as groups among themselves, guiding and mobilizing beliefs and convictions, creating alliances, and so on.
Furthermore, it is well known that one of the fundamental features of the dynamics of human relationships relates to the concept of an internal and external group. From a socio-psychological standpoint, these dynamics imply a sense of belonging that is fundamental to the human experience. Indeed, establishing boundaries between internal and external groups has always been an integral part of many conflicts throughout our collective history, and it is still at the heart of many human and collective issues today.
How and why identities are formed?
Why is it important to have an identity? What are the functions of this fundamentally symbolic process, given that social identification entails the formation of a self-representation as a member of a group or collective?
The main explanation is that humans have evolved to experience their own representation in symbolic terms because it allows them to convey information about who they are and to manage their own behaviours taking into account the expectations and intentions of those with whom they interact, as well as the effects of their actions on others.
The main idea here is that self-awareness, in symbolic terms, helps individuals and groups to predict how their behaviour and actions will affect how others judge them and, ultimately, how they will be accepted into their inner circle of trust. Essentially, identity facilitates social navigation.
The construction of identity often involves relatively high costs, such as passages and submission to rituals of bonding or initiation, the display of ornaments on the body, and other bodily alterations that only serve to signal loyalty and belonging.
This suggests that a kind of “honest costing signalling” (Zahavi, 1997) could be at play, with the expectation that the costs of belonging to a group will be offset by its advantages and as information of one´s membership to outsiders.
In other words, identities are also signalling because a sign, in evolutionary terms, is any trait or behaviour that serves to communicate or carry information. Therefore, the distinctive traits or behaviours and signs of belonging will have evolved to modify the behaviour of the recipient in benefit of the sender.
Since social acceptance has always been critical for individual survival, it is natural that the idea that each person has of himself in public terms, as well as the identity of belonging that each one signals, is rewarding to them, despite the costs involved. This is because individuals cannot survive without cooperation, which is facilitated when an individual identifies with a group, signals his/her intentions, commitment, and loyalty. Thus, it is natural and adaptive for us to have developed psychological mechanisms of adherence, belonging, and connection to groups, which are signalled by the identity of both the individuals and the groups to which they belong.
Therefore, whether through nature or through social construction, identities are everywhere. They emerge from nature itself with hierarchies and bio classes, such as gender, ages, life stages or other biological markers. Subsequently, they are complemented by all experiences and social paths taken during the life of individuals through various assumed identities, which is why they are socially and culturally constructed and a result of coalitional group psychology. For instance, the mother tongue serves as an initial platform for social and cultural identification, and as the foundation for the tribal social instinct that will accompany individuals throughout their lives (Van Vugt & Park, 2010).
It is suggested, therefore, that social identity, in a broad sense, relates to the need for signalling group affiliation and coalitional orientation in terms of cooperative intentions. In other words, individuals’ social identity is formed (and continue to be formed) as a sort of a summary presentation of the different loyalties that individuals acquire and exhibit, emphasizing the need for recognition.
Thus, it seems acceptable that social identity is supported by adaptive psychological mechanisms since coalitional psychology is part of human beings.
Once we acquire a code to connect and understand others, collective practices and preferences (i.e., values) begin. This happens through contacts, and life experiences with others, whether they are real entities or simply, ideas.
What is the purpose of Identity?
The short answer is this: identity is meaningful, or, as I mentioned earlier, it recognizes the sense of existence of both the “I” and the “we”, hence its immediate value. Identity enables us to define and compare ourselves to others, as well as to navigate the dynamics of tribal or group coalitions of all shapes and sizes. Identity represents belongings and defines boundaries.
Whether with a group, a club, a company, a profession, a neighborhood, a village, a city, or a country, identity means something to people and enables us to acquire a structure, facilitate our decisions, actions, and social navigation, thereby gaining the benefits of belonging to various groups, including the solidarity of others. As a result, and in some ways, identities are both inclusive and exclusive. According to sociologist Émile Durkheim, solidarity in ancestral tribal societies stemmed from similarity and awareness of ethnic group membership, and it appears that in most cases, individuals feel morally obligated to those with whom they share identity. Still other authors, like Chambers (1995) have suggested that the underlying causes of sociolinguistic differences result from the human instinct to establish and maintain a social identity. And, in fact, it turns out that the use of language, for example, goes far beyond the simple need for efficient communication or exchange of information, as individuals also use their linguistic codes to create and maintain social identities and to define borders, without forgetting that the very morality of exchanges, reciprocity and solidarity, is also related to the social identities of the individuals and groups to which they belong.
From an evolutionary point of view, it becomes clear that social identity served and continues to serve as a social marker because it facilitates cooperation and the benefits of being connected to groups.
Identity and similarity: the foundations of trust
For some time now, research has shown that identity is strongly marked by similarity. For example, Robert Putnam, quoted by Boyer (p. 64, Op. Cit.), suggested that an increase in diversity is sometimes correlated with a decrease in social trust (that is, the idea that others in general are, or not, trustworthy). The same author also mentions a study carried out in Denmark according to which “social trust tends to decrease due to the number of foreigners who can be found” (Op. Cit. P.65). While other studies on social trust also show that Scandinavians, like the Chinese, have higher levels of social trust. A researcher has developed a technique that allows to create a computer image of another person that can be transformed to look more and more (or less and less) as the face of the participants involved in the study. She found that the greater the similarity, the more the participant trusted the person in the image (See Image 1).
Additional research has revealed that we tend to trust and like people who are members of our social group or circle of trust more than we like or trust strangers. Indeed, this group effect tend to be so strong that even random allocation of individuals to small groups is sufficient to foster feelings of solidarity, belonging, identity, and trust among group members.
The greater the similarity, the more the participant trusted the person in the image.
Source: DeBruine, Lisa. (2005). Trustworthy but not lust-worthy: Context-specific effects of facial resemblance. Proceedings of the Royal Society of London B, 272: 919-922. doi: 10.1098/rspb.2004.3003 (University of Glasgow); Boyer, P. (2018). Mind Make Societies. New Haven: Yale University Press.
As early as 1963, William Hamilton (known for his famous rule) suggested that any organism tends to help another as long as there is a minimum of genetic proximity or identity between them. The closer they are, the more likely they will behave altruistically. In other words, each act of cooperation and/or trust would be motivated by a kind of fundamental identity or “genetic egoism” with the sole purpose of preserving (and reproducing) a particular genome. For example, from an evolutionary perspective, we can assert that trust has evolved and will continue to evolve in circumstances where natural selection favours it, namely, when those involved identify and cooperate with one another, and thus produce a mutually beneficial trust relationship. The creator of this equation dubbed it “Hamilton’s Rule,” and it is defined by the formula: β b > c
According to this formula, c) represents the cost paid by the “trustworthy” to produce a benefit b) for the “trustworthy”. The symbol β translates the statistical relationship called “regression coefficient”. Essentially, it measures the probability that trust could endure if those involved (those who trust and those who are trusted) continue to produce it as a mutually beneficial “asset.” The more this interaction is repeated under these terms, the more trust can be sustained, because both parties receive more benefits than losses. In conclusion, identity and identification are worthy.
It is likely that this tendency to trust people who resemble us may be rooted in the possibility that such people may be, or have, an identity related to ours and may also mean that ethnic homogeneity is an important variable in the recognition of identity and the formation of social trust, that is, the belief that most people are trustworthy.
Essentially, this is because the identity that produces similarity, generates attraction and attraction provides emotional comfort. From here it is easier to establish social trust between people or to assume that others are trustworthy (Finuras, 2017).
This “trust based on similarity or identity” basically means that individuals tend to trust more readily and quickly, individuals they perceive as their peers, a phenomenon that some authors (Zucker, 1986 and Kipnis, 1996) called “trust based on characteristics’. This type of trust, which is highly prevalent among citizens of the same country, is based on norms of obligation and cooperation that are rooted in social and ethnic similarities, which may reflect physical similarities or other factors such as family background, social status, ethnic origin, or nationality (see Tables 1 and 2). Additional research indicates that the overwhelming majority of a country’s citizens trust their fellow citizens first. And why is that? Because it appears that trust is more difficult to build in situations of diversity, as people are uncertain about the cultural norms of others and, consequently, about their intentions (Inglehart, 1991, Fukuyama, 1995, Kipnis, 1996).
Knowledge about other people’s cultures can be limited and based on stereotypes, prejudices, or partial images, which can lead to uncertainty about what to expect. People tend to divide or categorize others in order to simplify relationships, resulting in stereotypes that can be biased or distorted and, ultimately, transformed into prejudice.
These identity stereotypes are thus the way people think about categories: those with whom they share a social and societal bond and those who are outside that group (Tajfel, 1981, Giddens, 1994). Once others are categorized, individuals tend to create biased assumptions based on the group to which they belong, their values, preferences, behaviours and reliability (Messick and Allison, 1990). In light of this, people are more likely to be suspicious of out-group than in-group members, and to stereotype them more quickly and negatively, whether they are individuals, groups, or, on a larger scale, categories such as ethnicity or nationality, and these biased attributions about the abilities, intentions, and actions of out-group members can fuel feelings of distrust and exclusion. Moreover, when people identify themselves as belonging to the same group, their behaviour tends to be manifestly warmer among themselves and more suspicious and distant towards those who belong to or are identified as members of other groups.
We can even assert that there is a universal human tendency to attribute the motivations for out-group members’ behaviour to fundamental attitudes and values, whereas for in-group members, we tend to consider contextual factors that may influence their behaviour (Messick and Allison, 1990), implying that it is easier to commit the so-called “fundamental attribution error” (FAE) to those with whom we associate (Messick and Allison, 1990).
Typically, individuals are more likely to seek information that is consistent with the attitudes and beliefs of the group or groups with which they identify and tend to disregard the information that refutes them. However, group prejudices can be destructive, not only because they make people look at the members of the out-group with suspicion, but because they can also lead to increased confidence in the members of the in-group. In other words, people develop a form of “prejudiced tolerance” toward members of their group and tend to give other members of the same group the benefit of the doubt when confronted with information that would otherwise be interpreted as an indication of the other’s lack of reliability (Brewer, 1995, 1996).
As in another publication, I have had the opportunity to mention (Finuras, 2013), tables 1 and 2 show the results in the scope of a study carried out by Gerry Mackie (2006) based on another European study on trust between several nationalities. As it shows, the overwhelming majority of people surveyed (90%) indicate that they trust more, and foremost, individuals of their nationality, although it is not said in what terms and in what.
Degree of Trust between Nationalities in the European Union for 15 Countries in 2006
Source: Gerry Mackie (Op. Cit.)
Assessments of trust based on confidence or in groups can have very real consequences for organizational and institutional functioning. One study found that superiors lacked confidence in subordinates who had lower levels of status at work or who were predominantly members of minority groups, and thus lacked the willingness to involve them in the decision-making process.
Order of preference in terms of the degree of trust between 15 nationalities in the EU
Source: Author compilation based on Gerry Mackie (Op. Cit.)
In another study, it was also suggested that when teachers in an urban neighbourhood made judgments about the trust they had in students and their parents, socioeconomic status was a much stronger dividing line than were, for example, differences in ethnic origin. Apparently, people who perceive themselves to be different, require more time to see themselves as part of “the collective.” Similarity creates “common ground” that facilitates potential trust. As I have previously stated (Finuras, 2014), this perspective assumes that interactions between individuals are an important factor in promoting trust, as people trust those with whom they interact the most.
Another example is a 2016 study that asked people in six countries, “Who did they most trust in their workplace?” It has been proven that the greatest trust is given to those who are closest to us (See Graph 1).
Credits: EY, 2016
It’s also worth noting that trust appears to be higher in “more open” societies which are able to create a structure that recognizes and rewards cooperative behaviour and encourages fluid interaction between people in order to manage predictability. In turn, in “closer” societies, interpersonal trust tends to develop less, and different levels of high “trust” may coexist in the same context.
As mentioned previously, theories and studies carried out so far, suggest that trust is influenced by the psychological process that allows someone to be recognized as similar or closest to him or her. In these cases, variables such as age, gender, ethnicity, family status and education (among others that produce similarity), play an important role in the development of relationships of trust within the framework of a common identity.
We can infer that the greater the number of affinities or social similarities, the more people will assume that there is an identifiable “common ground,” and, therefore, trust is virtually easier to build or produce.
In general terms, trust seems to be influenced by similarities or identities that bring people together, or by differences, that generate distance or bring people apart, and these similarities and differences can, and are, evaluated from different perspectives and with different individual and collective heuristics. (Finuras, 2020).
In fact, the need for conformity is also stimulated by identity and identification with groups we belong to. When significant event occurs and needs to be explained, individuals tend to reason not so much in search of the truth but in search of a justification for themselves and others that fits the preferred conclusion, a phenomenon known as “motivated moral reason.”
Depending on the identity and emotional strength of each individual, it is natural for emotional or intuitive responses to generate preferences that lead to the processing of subsequent information based on the motivation to reach the desired conclusion. Perhaps this explains the riots that erupted at the US Capitol on January 6, 2021. Individuals wanted to believe that the elections were rigged and did not want to accept, or distrusted, claims that contradicted them, even if the former had no basis or evidence. Essentially, motivated by group identification, individuals want and seek the conclusions they already believe in, while denying or ignoring those that contradict their reasoning. Perhaps as a result of all of this, it is not surprising that a critical factor in increasing trust is a society´s ability to minimize differences between social groups, by promoting equal opportunities and strengthening various forms of cooperation.
According to some researchers (Knack and Zack, 2001; Zack, Kurzban, & Matzner, 2004, Zack, 2010), interpersonal trust is greater in societies and organizations that are more just, ethnically, socially, and economically homogeneous, and where social and legal mechanisms to punish or limit opportunism are more developed and consistent.
In conclusion, a final reflection on a concept that has been used to define social identities and is, in my view, both useless and dangerous. I’m referring to the notion of race. When asked how many oceans there are in the world, the majority of people will likely respond “five.” However, the answer will be incorrect because in fact, there is only one ocean. Similarly, to the question of how many races exist, the answer must be along the same lines. There is only one, the human race. Unfortunately, we continue to use the wrong concept of identity as it has no scientific, biological or genetic basis. There are no races, except the human race. As long as we continue using useless concepts, such as race, that refers only to a social construct, we will continue to emphasise identities that are categorized in a way that exclude rather than include, divide instead of associating.
To understand the divergence of the human species in its anatomical characteristics, just imagine the metaphor of an ice cream stored in a refrigerator, divided into 4 parts and distributed in different places. Weeks later, when we open the refrigerator, we will find these same four pieces of ice cream with different shapes. However, the “ice cream” remains the same!
Individual, social, or collective identity is essentially a signalling and differentiation phenomenon characterized by regularity and contrast. It is the result of a need to distinguish between the inner self and the outside world, as well as the concept of “we,” the creators of groups, in relation to other groups in the outside world. In either case, whether from the “I” or “we,” identities recognize and mark the sentiment of existence.
There are many different types of social identity, which suggests that individuals are capable of signalling their group membership in multiple ways. However, in the process of social construction of identity, it is important to distinguish between the concepts of social groups (which are understood as sets of individuals with common goals, interaction, and mutual recognition) and the concept of social category, which is the result of stereotyped agglutination of individuals who while do not need to recognize each other or have common goals, they nevertheless have a common link that characterizes and distinguishes them from other categories, such as gender, origin or nationality (Hofstede, 2001). In this sense, it can be said that the vast majority of the so-called social categories are not groups, even though they provide the observer with an idea of identity.
We discovered that, from an individual standpoint, the symbolic self-representation of someone as a member of a group implies certain costs, which means that in evolutionary language, the formation and marking of identities, as well as their signalling, have always been offset by the benefits of group membership, confirming the importance of social acceptance and the group’s need for survival in the ancestral and present environment.
Groups have always been fundamental to both survival and human identity. The overwhelming majority of us are part or linked to various groups throughout our lives and this results from common interests, affinities, characteristics or similarities.
In fact, according to the most recent research, when a connection to a group has particular relevance in a situation or context that is also particular, the behavior itself will tend to follow the norms or rules of that group so that each element is considered appropriate. A study suggests that the normative behavior of the group is also reflected in a person’s own writing style and that same style can reveal (with an accuracy close to 70%), which of the groups influenced a person while he was writing a particular piece of text.
In summary, identification with groups, whether tribes or their contemporary counterparts such as nations and ethnicities, suggests that the process of identity construction is associated with psychological processes and adaptive mechanisms that occur in the formation of group identities, but not in the formation of broader categories of identity, whether tribal or group.
From the evolutionary perspective, the phenomenon of social identity shows how humans have always had a need to gather together and developed a psychology of alliances as a means of survival, implicitly needing to mark and display their identity as a form of belonging and as a way of signalling their intentions and loyalties, and, above all, their ability to cooperate. In addition, group (or tribal) identity, allowed individuals to benefit from the protection of groups and to enjoy the benefits of cooperation within their group membership. It also allowed for competition with other groups in the fight for resources, dominance or influence over other groups. Therefore, group identity also functions as a mobilizing factor.
In a brief, whether in individual or collective terms, social identity appears to share something that stems from four needs. The first is a deep need to be acknowledged for one’s dignity or status, whatever it may be.. The second is the need to distinguish oneself and stand out from the crowd. The third need is for coalition, inclusion, and belonging, which is driven by the fourth need, which is cooperation.
After all, we all come into the world prepared to play various roles related to different identities. This is how we manage others’ perceptions of us, with the ultimate evolutionary goal of getting along with others and thus achieving social progress in the groups that define who we are, confirming our need for recognition, existence, and lived experience.
Without identity, individuals hardly know who they are and to which groups they belong, and without knowing it, they rarely survive. And, perhaps most importantly, without survival there is no reproduction and that seems to be the ultimate purpose of genes.
References and recommending reading
Boyd, R., & Richerson, P. (2009). Culture and the evolution of human cooperation. Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B, 364, 3281-3288.
Boyer, P. (2018). Mind Make Societies. New Haven: Yale University Press.
Brewer, M. & Caporael, L. (1996). Reviving Evolutionary Psychology: Biology Meets Society. Journal of Social Issues Volume 47, Issue 3, pp. 187–195,
Brewer, M. (1995). In-group favoritism. In D. M. Messick & A. Tenbrunsel (Eds.), Behavioral research and business ethics (pp. 101-117). NY: Russel Sage Foundation.
Chambers, K. (1995). Sociolinguistic Theory. Oxford: Basil Blackwell
DeBruine, Lisa. (2005). Trustworthy but not lust-worthy: Context-specific effects of facial resemblance. Proceedings of the Royal Society of London B, 272: 919-922. doi: 10.1098/rspb.2004.3003
Durkheim, E. (1984) The Division of Labour in Society. London: Mcmillan
Finuras, P. (2020). Da Natureza das Causas. Lisboa: Edições Sílabo.
Finuras, P. (2017). O Fator Confiança: a ciência para criar pessoas, líderes e organizações de alta confiança. Lisboa: Edições Sílabo.
Finuras, P. (2014). Em quem confiamos? Lisboa: Edições Sílabo.
Finuras, P. (2013). O Dilema da Confiança – Estudos, teorias e interpretações. Lisboa: Sílabo
Fukuyama, F. (2018). Identidades. Lisboa: D. Quixote
Fukuyama F. (1995). Confiança. Variação internacional de valores. Lisboa: Gradiva
Giddens, A. (1991). Modernity and Self-Identity. Stanford: University Press
Giddens, A. (1994). Risk, trust and reflexivity. Cambridge: Polity Press
Hamilton, W. (1964). The genetically evolution of social behavior, I and II. Journal of Theoretical Biology, 7, 1-16, 17-32.
Hofstede, G. (2001). Culture and organizations. Comparing values, behaviours, institutions, and organizations across nations. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications.
Hoy, W. & Tschannen, M. (1999). Five faces of trust. Journal of School Leadership, 9, 184-208.
Hoy, W. & Tschannen-Moran, M. (2000). A Multidisciplinary analysis of the nature, meaning, and measurement of trust. Review of Educational research, 70(4), 547-793.
Inglehart, R. (1991). Trust between nations: primordial ties, societal learning and economic development. In K. Reif & R. Inglehart (Eds.), Eurobarometer (pp. 145-85). London: Macmillan.
Kipnis, D. (1996). Trust and technology. In R. Kramer & T. Tyler (Eds.), Trust in organizations (pp. 39-50). Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.
Klayman, J., & Ha, Y.-W. (1987). Confirmation, disconfirmation, and information in hypothesis testing. Psychological Review, 94, 211-228
Knack S., Zack P. (2003). “Building Trust: Public Policy, Interpersonal Trust, and Economic Development”, Supreme Court Economic Review, Vol. 10, pp. 91-107, The Univ. Chicago Press.
Knack, S., Zack P. (2001). “Trust and Growth”, Economic Journal, Vol. 111, No. 470, pp. 295-321, April, Royal Economic Society.
Mackie, G. (2006). Patterns of social trust in Western Europe and their genesis. In K. S. Cook (Ed.), Trust in society. New York: Russel Sage Foundation.
Messick, D., & Allison W. (1990). Individual heuristics and the dynamics of cooperation in large groups. Psychology Review, 102, 131-45.
Nakahashi, W. (2013). “Evolution of improvement and cumulative culture”. Theoretical Population Biology.83: 3038. doi: 10.1016/j.tpb.2012.11.001. PMID 23153511.
Putnam, R. (2000). Bowling alone: The collapse and revival of American community. New York: Simon & Schuster.
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Psychology, New York, v.62, n.5, p.628-631, Oct. 1977
Tajfel, H., Billig, M., & Bundy, R. (1981). “Social Categorization and Intergroup Behaviour”. European Journal of Social Psychology, 1, 149-78
Tannenbaum, D., Ditto, P. H. and Pizarro, D. A. (2008). Different Moral Values Produce Different Judgments of Intentional Action. Poster presented at the annual meeting of the Society for Personality and Social Psychology, Albuquerque, NM.
Van Vugt, M., & Park, J. (2010). The tribal instinct hypothesis: Evolution and the social psychology of intergroup relations. In S. Strummer & M. Snyder (Eds.), The psychology of prosocial behaviour: Group processes, intergroup relations, and helping (pp. 13-32). Chichester, UK: Wiley-Blackwell.
Wursten, H. (2019). The 7 mental images of national culture: Leading and managing in a globalized world. Hofstede Insights. Amazon Books.
Zahavi, A. & Zahavi, A. (1997). The handicap principle: A missing piece of Darwin’s puzzle. Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press
Zack, P. (2010). Oxytocin Increases Generosity in Humans. Plo One 2, 11, 1128.
Zack, P., Kurzban, R., & Matzner, W. (2004). “The Neurobiology of Trust”, Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences 1032:224–227, 2004.
Zucker, L. (1986). Production of trust: Institutional sources of economic structure, 1840-1920. In B. M. Staw & L. L. Cummings (Eds.), Research in organizational
Behavior, (vol. 8, pp. 53-111). Greenwich, Ct: JAI Press.
 According to some researchers, namely, Robert Boy, Peter Richerson and, Wataru Nakahashi, the classification of what is considered and included in modern human behavior implies a definition of universal behaviors among living human groups. Among the various examples of human universals, include abstract thinking, planning skills, commercial exchanges, cooperative effort, body ornamentation, as well as the use and control of fire. These characteristics imply social and collective learning. To know more, see Boyd, Robert; Richerson, Peter (1988). Culture and the Evolutionary Process (2 ed.). University of Chicago Press. ISBN 9780226069333 e ainda Nakahashi, Wataru (2013). “Evolution of improvement and cumulative culture”. Theoretical Population Biology.83: 3038. doi:10.1016/j.tpb.2012.11.001. PMID 23153511.
Animal Biology, Vol. 55, No. 4, pp. 297-321 (2005) ! Koninklijke Brill NV, Leiden, 2005. Also available online – www.brill.nl. On aims and methods of Ethology N. Tinbergen. Department of Zoology, University of Oxford. This paper was originally published as: Tinbergen, N. (1963) On aims and methods of ethology. Zeitschrift für Tierpsychologie, 20, 410-433. This journal was renamed Ethology in 1986.
 According to P. Boyer, coalitions are simple forms of collective action applied to rivalries and between alliances, however, human beings are capable of creating collective action in many other contexts and forms (Vd. Boyer, Op. Cit. pp. 208-209)
 DeBruine, Lisa. (2005). Trustworthy but not lust-worthy: Context-specific effects of facial resemblance. Proceedings of the Royal Society of London B, 272: 919-922. doi: 10.1098/rspb.2004.3003 (University of Glasgow)
 See in this regard the so-called “minimum group paradigm” in Tajfel, H. (1971). In “Experiments in Inter-group Discrimination.” Scientific American, 223, 96-102
Tajfel, H., Billig, M., & Bundy, R. (1981). “Social Categorization and Intergroup Behaviour”. European Journal of Social Psychology, 1, 149-78
 Hamilton, W. (1964). The genetically evolution of social behavior, I and II. Journal of Theoretical Biology, 7, 1-16, 17-32.
 In social psychology the fundamental attribution error (FAE) describes how, when making judgments about people’s behavior, we tend to overemphasize dispositional factors and downplay situational ones. This means that we believe that people’s personality traits have more influence on their actions, compared to the other factors over which they don’t have control.
 Cf. Klayman, J., & Ha, Y.-W. (1987). Confirmation, disconfirmation, and information in hypothesis testing. Psychological Review, 94, 211-228
 Mackie, G. (2006). Patterns of social trust in Western Europe and their genesis. In K. S. Cook (Ed.), Trust in society. New York: Russel Sage Foundation.
 Cf. Hoy, W. & Tschannen-Moran, M., 1999, Five faces of trust, Op. Cit.
 That is, societies dominated by strong family ties and shared norms and where social interactions between people are strongly formalized
 Usually the term “motivated moral reasoning” is used to mean or describe situations in which the judgment that is made is motivated by a desire to reach a particular moral conclusion (Tannenbaum, et.all, 2018, Op. Cit.)
 We are aware that there is considerable debate and discussion about how to define “equal opportunities” in both philosophy and political science. Of course, it will be very difficult to envision a society that provides identical opportunities to all of its citizens. Here, my implicit definition of “equal opportunities” is not whether “equal opportunities” exist in general, but whether the state is capable of promoting this equality (Finuras, 2013).
 See also Huib Wursten about Mental Images and Identity in Wursten, H. (2019). The 7 mental images of national culture: Leading and managing in a globalized world. Hofstede Insights. Amazon Books.
There are several studies and lots of literature about the issue of wealth, money, income happiness, and wellbeing. The discussion of “money really buys happiness” comes up several times among academics and the general public. The conclusion is that this topic has been addressed in vast and inconclusive research and literature because there’s no single research or scientific paper that settles this complicated question in a definitive way. Still an open discussion.
For instance, data collected by the Gallup Organization in the Gallup-Health ways Well-Being Index (GHWBI 2009) provide a very rich source of observations. They analyze the responses of more than 450,000 American residents surveyed in 2008 and 2009 to several questions about their perception of well-being. The data suggest a rather complex answer to the question.
As we know, the classical 2010 research from Daniel Kahneman and Angus Deaton, suggests that is the everyday quality of daily life (like joy, stress, sadness, anger, and affection) that makes one’s life pleasant or unpleasant. For the authors, life evaluation (or the thoughts that people have when they think about their lives) is not the same as emotional wellbeing and money seem that doesn’t buy happiness after $75,000.
First, a discussion of subjective well-being should recognize an important distinction between the two concepts that are often confounded, that is, “emotional well-being” (or what some social scientists call hedonic well-being”) which mean the emotional quality of an individual’s everyday experience or the frequency and intensity of experiences of joy, fascination, sadness, anger, and affection that make one’s life pleasant or unpleasant.
Surveys of subjective well-being have traditionally focused on life evaluation with a very common question: “How satisfied are you with your life as a whole?” The researchers found that emotional well-being and life evaluation have different correlations in the circumstances of people’s lives. In particular, some research suggests that there are important differences in the relationship of these aspects of well-being to income.
Another important study called “Money matters to happiness – perhaps more than previously thought” conducted by Wharton’s Senior Fellow Matthew Killingsworth concludes that, contrary to previous influential work, there’s no dollar-value level at which money’s importance lessens and the main reason is that, probably, higher earners feel an increased sense of control over the own life. This research contradicts previous studies that found that “money buys happiness only up to about $75,000 a year, after which day-to-day contentment ceases to increase.”
The fact is that money seems to improve happiness and it doesn’t matter how much do you already have. This seems to be a response to another study from 2010 (Do We Need $75,000 a Year to Be Happy?) that was conducted by Princeton University scientists, suggest that “people’s day-to-day happiness ten to increases with income up to about $75,000, at which point it tops out”. This suggests that if you make $150,000 a year you are not happier on a day-to-day level than someone making $75,000.
Again, the researcher Matthew Killingsworth says that “his experiments revealed that there was no dollar value at which money stopped mattering to an individual’s well-being. His research found that all “possible forms of well-being continued rising with income, not seeing any sort of inflection point where money stops mattering. Instead, it just keeps increasing.”
Now, new data (2020) from Human Progress shows again that happiness continues to rise in line with higher salaries and income.
Diener E, Biswas-Diener R (2002) Will money increase subjective well-being? Soc Indic Res 57:119–169.CrossRefGoogle Scholar; ↵Headey B, Muffels R, Wooden M (2008) Money does not buy happiness: Or does it? A reassessment based on the combined effects of wealth, income, and consumption. Soc Indic Res 87:65–82.CrossRefGoogle Scholar; ↵Clark AE, Frijters P, Shields M (2008) Relative income, happiness, and utility: An explanation for the Easterlin paradox and other puzzles. J Econ Lit 46:95–144.CrossRefGoogle Scholar; ↵Clark AE, Kristensen N, Westergaard-Nielsen N (2009) Economic satisfaction and income rank in small neighborhoods. J Eur Econ Assoc 7:519–527.CrossRefGoogle Scholar; Diener E (1984) Subjective well-being. Psychol Bull 95:542–575.CrossRefPubMed
How Does the Gallup-Sharecare Well-Being Index Work?
High income improves evaluation of life but not emotional well-being
Daniel Kahneman and Angus Deaton. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences Sep 2010, 107 (38) 16489-16493; DOI: 10.1073/pnas.1011492107
Money matters to happiness—perhaps more than previously thought | Penn Today (upenn.edu)
Matthew Killingsworth came to this conclusion after collecting 1.7 million data via an app he created called Track Your Happiness where people recorded both evaluative and experienced well-being a few times each day, with check-in times randomized per participant points from more than 33,000 participants who provided in-the-moment snapshots of their feelings during daily life.
Important: this does not mean that people should only focus on money because some research also suggests that people who specifically link money or income with happiness are generally less happy.
Maybe money can’t buy emotional wellbeing but the romantic idea “poor but happy” seems more and more that really doesn’t explain the link between income, wealth, and happiness or wellbeing.
Looking to the Human Progress data I will say, “poor but happy, my… you know!