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Journal Article


Ingalls V. Evol. Behav. Sci. 2020; 14(1): 79-91.


(Copyright © 2020, American Psychological Association)






Previous research has found that the sex of the author can influence the characteristics of their fictional hero and that these differences can be predicted using evolutionary psychology. According to sexual selection theory, males and females evolve different behavioral strategies, and thus different psychologies, in order to maximize reproductive success; thus, humans will have behavioral tendencies influenced by subconscious mechanisms that would have aided fitness in the ancestral environment. This study focuses on how the characteristics of the female hero may differ based on the sex of the author using 30 fantasy series written for children ages 10-17. Male authors are predicted to create female heroes who are more physically powerful and more likely to engage in physical conflicts than female authors, because males benefit more than females from physical battle. Although not all comparisons produced statistically significant differences, all data produced trends in the predicted directions. A closer analysis found that female authors created female heroes who were more likely to be human girls without superhuman abilities, while males created female heroes who were unlikely to be fully human. When examining male-female hero teams, it was found that female authors tended to make the male hero more powerful than his female teammate, which was not true for male authors. This may be because females benefit when their mate can dominate other males. These results suggest that males and females create different traits in their heroes, irrespective of the hero's sex, and that female-created heroes achieve their goals without resorting to physical violence. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2020 APA, all rights reserved)

Language: en


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