Gorillas in Our Midst? Human Sexual Dimorphism and Contest Competition in Men

A. K. Hill, D. H. Bailey, D. A. Puts

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter

34 Scopus citations


The literature on human sexual selection has historically focused on the role of female mate choice, but cumulating experimental, correlational, and cross-cultural evidence suggests that male contest competition may have been more influential in shaping men's phenotypes. Cross-species comparison has shown similarities between humans and our closest extant phylogenetic relatives, the Great Apes, in male-male aggression, and archeological evidence also indicates a great antiquity for male-male violence. Compared to women, men possess substantially greater muscle mass, strength, cranial robusticity, physical aggression, pain tolerance, risk-taking, weapons use, and participation in coalitional aggression. Men also exhibit displays of physical prowess and acuity to the formidability of male conspecifics, as well as possessing a suite of traits, such as facial hair and low vocal pitch, that increase perceptions of dominance. These traits are consistent with having been shaped by contest competition over mates: they are sexually dimorphic, appear at sexual maturity, and predict success in male contests as well as success in mating and reproduction. While alternative explanations for some of these sexually dimorphic traits are possible, contest competition among males throughout human evolutionary history is the most parsimonious.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationOn Human Nature
Subtitle of host publicationBiology, Psychology, Ethics, Politics, and Religion
PublisherElsevier Inc.
Number of pages15
ISBN (Electronic)9780127999159
ISBN (Print)9780124201903
StatePublished - Jan 1 2017

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Agricultural and Biological Sciences(all)
  • Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology(all)


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