What modern sports competitions can tell us about human nature

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To fully understand human behavior, it seems inevitable to approach it from an evolutionary perspective. However, much of human behavior has been overwritten by culture and society, thus allowing little insight into how it might have evolved amid natural and sexual selection. Here, I argue that sports competitions, although a cultural phenomenon in themselves, strip away many of the cultural layers and reveal more primary, rudimentary aspects of human behavior. Fortunately, because they are ubiquitous, meticulously recorded, and often quantified in great detail, sports competitions provide a plethora of usable data. In this article I provide an evolutionary account of the cross-cultural existence and popularity of sports by reviewing evidence of four functional hypotheses that regard the omnipresence of sports as a by-product of fitness-related adaptations (skill acquisition and development, status seeking, courtship display, and coalition formation). Then I outline how the growing body of sports data and documentation can be exploited for increasing our understanding of human nature (e.g., on conflict and cooperation, lateral preferences, territoriality, and nonverbal communication). The article concludes by giving guidelines for future cross-disciplinary research to advance the understanding of how evolution has shaped human behavior.
OriginalspracheEnglisch
ZeitschriftPerspectives on Psychological Science
Jahrgang14
Heft2
Seiten (von - bis)138-155
Seitenumfang18
DOIs
PublikationsstatusVeröffentlicht - 01.03.2019

ID: 3634105

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