Effects of Sex, Status, and Mating Cues on Expected Aggressive Responses


The effect of sex, status, and mating cues on expected aggression was examined via three scenario-based studies in which participants imagined themselves in a situation with a same-sex instigator of a provocation. Participants were randomly assigned to receive a scenario, which included one of two levels of status of instigator (high, low), one of two levels of attractiveness of the instigator (unattractive, attractive), and one of two levels of provocation (apology, insult). Sex and dispositional aggressivity were also included in a full factorial design. Based on evolutionary psychology ideas, we anticipated that status and attractiveness would differentially influence expected aggression for men vs. women. Participants in Experiment 1 were instructed to imagine that they were alone, whereas participants in Experiments 2 and 3 imagined themselves in a situation that included mating-related primes. in general expected aggression was greater for aggression-prone participants and under conditions of provocation and/or a high-status instigator. Experiments 2 and 3 found that, in the context of mate competition, sex differences in the effects of instigator provocation, status, and attractiveness emerged: greater aggressivity now only predicted more aggression for males but not females who were insulted; aggression was highest for females confronting an unattractive, high-status instigator and for males confronting an attractive, high-status instigator; females were more likely to aggress against a high-status instigator, regardless of being in a steady relationship or a first date situation, but males were only more likely to aggress against a high-status instigator in a first date situation.


Psychological Science

Keywords and Phrases

Sex; Social status

Document Type

Article - Journal

Document Version


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© 2009 Wiley-BlackwellWiley-Blackwell, All rights reserved.

Publication Date

01 May 2009