First, sports may function as culturally invented courtship rituals that reliably advertise participant quality to the opposite sex . Nevertheless, we explored whether these factors might have affected sports and exercise participation. Second, a history of male-male aggression is revealed by pronounced sexual dimorphism in musculature, strength and speed . One reason is that, on average, a participating male, compared to a participating female, may have a stronger interest in or valuation of sports or may have a stronger desire to be a sports spectator.
We thus hypothesized that, compared to girls and women, boys and men will possess a greater motivational predisposition to be interested in sports, especially team sports. Exercise participation rates were comparatively high i.
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It is important to emphasize that this evolutionary hypothesis is fully compatible with research implicating social influences on sports interest. Although the particular patterns of inculcation can be expected to differ across societies, an evolutionary perspective suggests that socialization will generally amplify inborn predispositions associated with sex  see also .
Competing interests: The authors have declared that no competing interests exist. We addressed this prediction more directly in Study 3, by examining changes in undergraduate intramural registrations in the s. Nine institutions provided historical data, and these did not indicate that the sex difference is diminishing. As predicted, male participation rates for sports were ificantly and substantially higher than female rates, especially for team sports.
Both kinds of motivation are greater in males  — . For example, adolescent females often experience great pressure to eschew sports, especially stereotypically masculine sports  —  ; this can be understood in terms of female mating competition, which generally emphasizes femininity .
Conversely, males may be rewarded for embracing masculine norms in sports  —  ; this makes sense given that, for males, excelling in stereotypically masculine sports is associated with greater mating success  see also . Self-report studies conducted in the U. However, counter interpretations have been offered . These possibilities have been suggested ly but the evidence offered for them was informal or based on unpublished studies.
This hypothesis follows from the following points. Here we tested whether, as our evolutionary hypothesis predicts, the modest sex difference in organized school sports participation in the U. These studies also allowed us to test additional predictions of the evolved male predispositions hypothesis. By contrast, informing girls that more collegiate scholarships will be available for them in s than were available for their mothers in the early s is not expected to affect their sports interest.
The most striking example is in the United States, where female participation in organized sports has grown steadily over the past four decades. Similarly, cross-cultural ethnographic studies of sports have focused on male sports, apparently due to their greater prominence e.
We tested the prediction of historical stability in two ways. The sex difference was ificant for all frequently occurring sports Table 4.
The logic here is that once genuine opportunities were consistently provided for organized female sports, usually by the s or s, female participation would have been limited by female interest. A game can be defined as an organized activity where two or more sides compete according to agreed-upon rules, and a sport can be defined as a game that requires physical skill see  — . There were ificant sex differences in several sports, both individual and team, and in every case, males participated at higher rates.
Another legacy of this history is a predisposition s to behaviorally prepare for physical contests, both women seeking sex Valley AL and in groups. A potential concern with measuring participation based on rates playing per day is that females might participate on fewer days but for longer durations. Despite the evidence for a greater male than female predisposition for sports interest, a powerful challenge to this hypothesis has emerged in the form of surging sports participation by girls and women in some contemporary nations.
One is that the sex difference in participation will be larger for team than individual sports. These sex differences were similar for older and younger age groups. Instead they assume or allow that sports arise as byproducts of other adaptations, including motives and capacities to physically compete for mates and status, negotiate and enforce behavioral norms, and monitor the abilities of potential competitors, mates and allies.
There were ificant sex differences in several exercise activities, with some showing higher male rates e. Another prediction of the evolved male predispositions hypothesis is that the sex difference will remain stable over time. Boys are also more likely to form large same-sex groups, to differentiate roles within such groups, and to seek competition with other groups . Therefore, although efforts to ensure more equitable access to sports in the U.
This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attributionwhich permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited. Our predictions did not address educational achievement or race and ethnicity. However, individual sports require only the first kind of motivation, whereas team sports require both, suggesting that the sex difference should be larger for team sports.
First, historical reviews of sports document that many societies had substantial female participation, but males are reported as being much more involved in most or all cases .
Although these hypotheses are based on adaptive logic, none require the claim that sports are an adaptation per se. Much evidence supports the hypothesis that males are more predisposed to be interested in sports. Indeed, many sports require skills relevant for combat or hunting, such as running, tackling, and throwing or dodging projectiles .
There were in fact ificant sex differences in participation duration, but it was males, not females, who participated for longer durations. First, many lines of evidence indicate that throughout human evolutionary history and during contemporary periods, men have been substantially more likely than women to engage in contests involving extreme physical aggression  — between-group raiding and warfare  — and cooperative hunting .
Third, several studies have reported that females with congenital adrenal hyperplasia, a disease characterized by heightened prenatal androgen exposure, are more likely than unaffected females to show strong interest in stereotypically masculine sports  — . This is indicated by the fact that, in all societies that have been studied, boys engage in more rough-and-tumble play and play-fighting  — .
Similarly, men but not women possess secondary sexual characteristics e. The funders had no role in study de, data collection and analysis, decision to publish, or preparation of the manuscript.
Evidence comes from self-reports of interest summarized in  and from actual participation e. Most scholars, advocacy groups, and the U. The surge in female sports participation in the U. Nevertheless, equal or nearly equal participation in organized school sports does not necessarily equate with equal or nearly equal interest in sports.
Study 1 analyzed the American Time Use Survey, which interviewedindividuals regarding their activities during one day. Respondents reported all activities, including their durations, that they performed during the preceding hour period. Multivariate logistic regression indicated that non-whites, compared to Whites, participated more in team sports but less in individual sports; in addition, those who did not complete high school, compared to those graduated high school and those who obtained education beyond high school, participated more in team sports but less in individual sports Table S1.
Despite this variation, within each educational and ethnic group, substantial sex differences remained for both individual and team sports Table S2. Study 2 was based on systematic observations of unorganized sports and exercise participation at public parks in four U.
Observations occurred in Summer and Fall and Spring We documented a total of 2, sports and exercise participations Table 4. Table 1 shows participation rates on a random day for each of 24 activities and for the summed activity types of individual sports, team sports, and exercise.
Third, sports may function to build skills necessary for physically-demanding activities, especially combat, warfare, and hunting  — . Similarly, female participation in organized sports might be more likely to reflect extrinsic motives e.
Sports occur in most or all human societies  — and numerous functions have been hypothesized, all of which appear mutually compatible . These changes occurred after the enactment in of a federal law, known as Title IX, that prohibits sexual discrimination in educational opportunities, including sports, and that resulted in the creation of substantially more equitable opportunities and incentives e. Study 2 was based on systematic observations of sports and exercise at 41 public parks in four states.
In addition, some sports involve two teams competing against each other, with team play often requiring the differentiation of roles, coordination among teammates, and tactical planning . According to most scholars, advocacy groups, and the United States courts, however, this hypothesis is challenged by modest sex differences in organized school sports participation in the contemporary U.
We conducted three studies to test whether organized school sports participation data underestimate the actual sex difference in sports participation.
Sports and exercise participation rates varied with age Table 2. In fact, a recent study found there were more male sports than female sports in all societies in the Human Relations Area Files probability sample  see also . Study 3 involved surveying colleges and universities about intramural sports, which primarily consist of undergraduate participation in team sports.
However, from an evolutionary perspective i. As predicted, despite this variability, the sex difference in participation for team and individual sports remained ificant and substantial for all age groups.
Second, studies in large contemporary societies ubiquitously report greater male interest in participating, watching, and excelling in sports. Much evidence indicates that men experienced an evolutionary history of physical competition, both one-on-one and in coalitions.
Female interest, in turn, would be determined by the interaction between innate predispositions e. This prediction follows because team sports require both motivation to engage in physical competition and motivation to engage in cooperative group challenges.
In Study 1, we addressed it indirectly, by comparing younger and older age groups, under the assumption that the sex difference in sports interest in a given cohort will remain stable. This is because such a change is abstract, and it only applies to a small proportion of individuals.