Gendered Fitness Interests: A Proposal Explaining How Family Composition Affect Socio-Political Attitudes and Behaviors
Blake, K. R. (UNSW Sydney), Brooks, R. (UNSW Sydney)
Whereas most people are biologically either male or female, their socio-political interests are almost never aligned with just their own sex. Here we adopt the evolutionary theory of ‘inclusive fitness’—whereby individuals gain personal fitness via their relatives—and suggest it can be partitioned into effects derived from one’s ratio of female versus male kin. We argue that the balance of these female- and male-derived effects, which we call ‘Gendered Fitness Interests’, may influence human behavior, especially the adoption of socio-political issues with a gendered dimension. Our proposal is consistent with the observation that parents’ socio-political views are modified by the sex of their children. Further, it offers a new explanation for the relatively small average differences between women’s and men’s socio-political positions. From our proposal, we derive the novel testable predictions that women’s and men’s socio-political attitudes will converge with age, and with larger family sizes. Our proposal identifies a previously unappreciated component of variance in traits and attitudes with a gendered dimension, and may be generally useful in resolving the complex origins of gendered behavior. Further, it undermines the primacy of an individual’s gender identification (including but not limited to identifying strictly with one’s biological sex) as a fixed and distinctive part of socio-political identity.
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Reconciling Nature and Nurture Symposium