Facultative formidability: Physical size shapes men’s aggressive traits and behaviors in sports.

Gregory D. Webster, C. Nathan DeWall, Yue Feng Xu, Tatiana Orozco, Benjamin S. Crosier, John B. Nezlek, Angela D. Bryan, Renée J. Bator

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Scopus citations


Does one’s physical size inform the development of traits and interpersonal behavioral strategies? Drawing on resource holding potential, reactive heritability and facultative calibration, the recalibration theory of anger, and the general aggression model, we predicted that there would be positive relationships between (a) height and aggression and (b) weight and aggression for men but not for women. We tested this prediction across 4 studies (total N = 2,470). In 2 studies of undergraduates, we found Sex × Size interactions for weight (Study 1) and height (Study 2); the weight– and height–aggression associations were positive only for men (vs. women) and only for trait measures of anger or physical aggression (vs. hostility or verbal aggression). In 2 studies of professional male athletes, we found that both height and weight were positively related to penalization for aggression in both indoor lacrosse (Study 3) and ice hockey (Study 4) at both the individual and team levels. Collectively, these findings support the abovementioned theories and suggest that, in men, physical size may shape aggressive traits and behaviors in adaptive ways.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)133-158
Number of pages26
JournalEvolutionary Behavioral Sciences
Issue number2
StatePublished - 2021

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2020 American Psychological Association


  • aggression
  • anger
  • height
  • sports
  • weight

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Social Psychology
  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology


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