Monday, February 28, 2011

Fame, Fortune, and Fitness at the Academy Awards

Here's a different take on the Oscars, some 2007 research that looks at the Academy Awards competition through the lens of evolutionary fitness (need I say Natalie Portman?). From the Journal of Ethology, Volume 25, No. 2.

Fame, fortune, and fitness at the Academy Awards
by Mark E. Hauber

People across many societies routinely participate in physical or intellectual competitions in the absence of immediate substantial monetary or other apparent material rewards. But increased fame and social status associated with awards, such as the "Oscars", need not be necessarily and solely a cultural construct unrelated to natural selection. Rather, prizes might be badges of honor if they are also honest indicators of evolutionary fitness. Analyses of reported reproductive success data, from a survey of well-known female and male actors, followed previously reported patterns of biological fitness in this sample of a human population. In addition, the numbers of Academy Awards received for acting were positively associated with reported numbers of biological children for both genders. The association of increased fitness with more awards received was statistically consistent even when considering that this subset of the population conformed to the Bateman effect in human reproduction: male actors had a more positive correlation than females between cumulative numbers of married partners and overall numbers of children. Honest signals of reproductive quality that are displayed by both sexes are expected to occur in humans and other species with costly biparental care and mutual mate choice.

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