Scientists have provided objective evidence to back suspicions that men who are over-confident and narcissistic are the likeliest to start wars -- but also are the likeliest to lose.
US researchers recruited 200 men and women in an unusual experiment aimed at exploring whether a bias towards optimism may drive a leader to start a war.
The volunteers were asked to play a one-on-one computer game.
Each played the role of the head of a fictitious country that is in conflict with a neighbour over a vast field of diamonds on a disputed border. . .
Individuals who launched unprovoked attacks were more than five times likelier to be a male than female.
And they were big on self-confidence, too. On average, a warmonger ranked himself 60 out of the 200 players, whereas those who tried to avoid war ranked themselves more humbly, at 75 on average.
Contrary to popular belief, though, testosterone played no part in whether a player decided for war or for peace. The players gave a saliva test before the game, and these showed there was no significant difference in male hormone levels between warmongers and peaceniks.
On the other hand, there was a clear psychological characteristic among the warmongers. After the game, they were given a personality assessment, which found high levels of narcissism among the men -- but not among the women.
The researchers, led by Dominic Johnson of Princeton University in New Jersey, publish the study in the latest issue of Proceedings of the Royal Society, a journal of Britain's de-facto academy of science.
A study like this is prime material for easy jokes. But it's also sobering, especially when you consider, first, that narcissism and self-confidence are two traits that drive individuals to become leaders who have the power to start wars, and second, that wars in the Nano Era could easily result in worldwide devastation, global enslavement, or both.
Ugh. Anybody got an easy answer for this one?