evolutionary psychology, anthropology, athletics, competitiveness, gender differences, aggression, universal


Sports have been frequently explored in cross-cultural studies, yet scant attention has been paid to female participation. Here we coded the occurrence of sports and related activities for males and females in the societies comprising the Human Relations Area Files (HRAF) probability sample. We then tested several predictions derived from evolutionary theory. As predicted, in all 50 societies with documented sports, there were more male sports than female sports; hunting and combat sports were almost exclusively male activities; and the sex difference in sports was greater in patriarchal than in nonpatriarchal societies. These results show that a robust sex difference in direct physical competition co-occurs with meaningful variation in its expression.


Original Citation: Deaner, Robert O., and Brandt A. Smith. “Sex Differences in Sports across 50 Societies.” Cross-Cultural Research (2012).