Hard Targets: Masculine Honor Beliefs and Motivations for Muscularity

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Abstract

Individual differences in masculine honor beliefs are related to men’s aggressive responses to threats and insults. We predicted individual differences in masculine honor beliefs would be associated with greater drives to achieve muscularity as a way for men to become hard targets who repel threats. Across 3 studies we found higher levels of endorsement of masculine honor beliefs were associated with greater degrees of muscularity concerns (Studies 1 and 2) and greater beliefs that men lift weights to provide a means for defense against threats and to intimidate others (Study 2). Furthermore, we found levels of men’s endorsement of masculine honor beliefs are palpable, such that observers can reliably predict these levels after a brief social interaction (Study 3). Thus, the beliefs that men must protect themselves, their reputations, their families, and their property against threat and insult, with physical aggression if necessary, may compel men to make themselves hard targets who ward off those who would otherwise threaten, insult, or challenge them without having to fight.

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