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Nerds vs. Jocks: Different Life History Strategies?

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I was alerted to a NEEPS (Northeastern Evolutionary Psychology Society) conference paper, and one of the short abstracts of a talk had a bit about ‘nerds’, ‘jocks’, and differing life history strategies. Surprisingly, the results did not line up with current stereotypes about life outcomes for the two groups.

The Life History of the Nerd and Jock: Reproductive Implications of High School Labels

The present research sought to explore whether labels such as “nerd” and “jock” represent different life history strategies. We hypothesized that self-identified nerds would seek to maximize future reproductive success while the jock strategy would be aimed at maximizing current reproductive success. We also empirically tested Belsky’s (1997) theory of attachment style and life history. A mixed student/community sample was used (n=312, average age = 31) and completed multiple questionnaires on Survey Monkey. Dispelling stereotypes, nerds in high school had a lower income and did not demonstrate a future orientation in regards to reproductive success, although they did have less offspring. Being a jock in high school was related to a more secure attachment style, higher income, and higher perceived dominance. (NEEPS, 2017: 11)

This goes against all conventional wisdom; how could ‘jocks’ have better life outcomes than ‘nerds’, if the stereotype about the blubbering idiot jock is supposedly true?

Future orientation is The degree to which a collectivity encourages and rewards future-oriented behaviors such as planning and delaying gratification (House et al, 2004,p. 282). So the fact that self-reported nerds did not show future orientation in regards to reproductive success is a blow to some hypotheses, yet they did have fewer children.

However, there are other possibilities that could explain why so-called nerds have fewer children, for instance, they could be seen as less attractive and desirable; could be seen as anti-social due to being, more often than not, introverted; or they could just be focusing on other things, and not worrying about procreating/talking to women so they end up have fewer children as result. Nevertheless, the fact that nerds ended up having lower income than jocks is pretty telling (and obvious).

There are, of course, numerous reasons why a student should join a sport. One of the biggest is that the skills that are taught in team sports are most definitely translatable to the real world. Most notably, one who plays sports in high school may be a better leader and command attention in a room, and this would then translate over to success in the post-college/high school world. The results of this aren’t too shocking—to people who don’t have any biases, anyway.

Why may nerds in high school have had lower income in adulthood? One reason could be that the social awkwardness did not translate into dollar signs after high school/college graduation, or chose a bad major, or just didn’t know how to translate their thoughts into real-world success. Athletes, on the other hand, have the confidence that comes from playing sports and they know how to work together with others as a cohesive unit in comparison to nerds, who are more introverted and shy away from being around a lot of people.

Nevertheless, this flew in the faces of the stereotypes of nerds having greater success after college while the jocks—who (supposedly) don’t have anything beyond their so-called ‘primitive’ athletic ability—had greater success and more money. This flies in the face of what others have written in the past about how nerds don’t have greater success relative to the average population, well this new presentation says otherwise. Thinking about the traits that jocks have in comparison to nerds, it doesn’t seem so weird that jocks would have greater life outcomes in comparison to nerds.

Self-reported nerds, clearly, don’t don’t have the confidence to make the stratospheric amounts of cash that people would assume that they should make because they are knowledgeable in a few areas, on the contrary. Those who could use their body’s athletic ability had more children as well as had greater life success than nerds, which of course flew in the face of stereotypes. Certain stereotypes need to go, because sometimes stereotypes do not tell the truth about some things; it’s just what people believe ‘sounds good’ in their head.

If you think about what it would take, on average, to make more money and have great success in life after high school and college, you’ll need to know how to talk to people and how to network, which the jocks would know how to do. Nerds, on the other hand, who are more ‘socially isolated’ due to their introverted personality, would not know too much about how to network and how to work together with a team as a cohesive unit. This, in my opinion, is one reason why this was noticed in this sample. You need to know how to talk to people in social settings and nerds wouldn’t have that ability—relative to jocks anyway.

Jocks, of course, would have higher perceived dominance since athletes have higher levels of testosterone both at rest and exhaustion (Cinar et al, 2009). Athletes, of course, would have higher levels of testosterone since 1) testosterone levels rise during conflict (which is all sports really are, simulated conflict) and 2) dominant behavior increases testosterone levels (Booth et al, 2006). So it’s not out of the ordinary that jocks were seen as more dominant than their meek counterparts. In these types of situations, higher levels of testosterone are needed to help prime the body for what it believes is going to occur—competition. Coupled with the fact that jocks are constantly in situations where dominance is required; engage in more physical activity than the average person; and need to keep their diet on point in order to maximize athletic performance, it’s no surprise that jocks showed higher dominance, as they do everything right to keep testosterone levels as high as possible for as long as possible.

I hope there are videos of these presentations because they all seem pretty interesting, but I’m most interested in locating the video for this specific one. I will update on this if/when I find a video for this (and the other presentations listed). It seems that these labels do have ‘differing life history strategies’, and, despite what others have argued in the past about nerds having greater success than jocks, the nerds get the short end of the stick.

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37 Comments

  1. Phil78 says:

    Neuroticism, also known as emotional stability, is certainly the factor at hand along with introversion making one more shy.

    If you identify as a nerd, have weak social skills (thus weaker experience) in an unprotected environment outside of school you are going to fail.

    Like

  2. EvolutionistX says:

    If you take out the not-so-fancy words, the finding is actually that people who are low-status in highschool are also low status after highschool, and people who are high-status during highschool are also high-status after highschool.

    Stereotypes aside, both “jock” and “nerd” include a wide range of people. Some nerds are guys who like computers, and some are guys who like comic books. One of these fields pays better than the other. “Jock” can include both people who just like sports and people who are talented at sports. People who are actually talented at sports tend to have well-functioning bodies–including their brains.

    Like

    • RaceRealist says:

      If you take out the not-so-fancy words, the finding is actually that people who are low-status in highschool are also low status after highschool, and people who are high-status during highschool are also high-status after highschool.

      I agree. I think Phil explained it well.

      Some nerds are guys who like computers, and some are guys who like comic books. One of these fields pays better than the other. “Jock” can include both people who just like sports and people who are talented at sports. People who are actually talented at sports tend to have well-functioning bodies–including their brains.

      The abstract doesn’t say much and the paper is not on Sc-Hub. So at the moment, we can only infer how they sampled the people in the study.

      Using your two ‘nerd’ examples. those two groups hardly exercise, play sports, etc, so they’d, in theory, have lower-functioning brains. In regards to jocks, the label, as I wrote about last night, has different meanings to whites and blacks. Whites look at it in a sports context while blacks look at it in a physical context, i.e., being strong, fit, or being able to handle themselves physically.

      I know that Merriam-Webster defines ‘jock’ as a high school athlete, however, there are more nuanced (scientific) definitions which I would feel more comfortable using.

      Do you know of any ‘nerds’ that participated in many sports in school, whether high school or college, that participated and excelled in sports? I believe there is a distinction for a reason—which comes down to, obviously, differences in physical ability.

      Though I await watching the video presentation/reading the paper to find out more information about this study.

      Like

  3. I find this post interesting, as it seems to confirm my own personal observations. I was a stereotypical nerd and then around the age of 17, I slowly began to grow out it. Almost three years later, I am still not completely de-nerded yet; it’s a bumpy road out of that behavioral pattern, but observable improvements are being made.

    The trouble with being a nerd (I know this from having been one) is that one harbors a strong ressentiment against “jocks” which prevents one from ever trying to become a “jock”. If it is possible to break through this ressentiment, a lot can be accomplished in terms of self-improvement, but this still requires much perseverance.

    Like

  4. ilovehitler says:

    what did peepee do to you afro?

    Like

    • Afrosapiens 🇫🇷🇪🇺 says:

      She banned me when she was on her period.

      Like

    • RaceRealist says:

      Peepee banned us because we don’t bow down to his non-understanding of evolution and always point out where he’s wrong (most everything he writes about). He wants a safe space to push his Rushton r/K bullshit without any opposition.

      Like

  5. Peter says:

    Hey, Jack, What’s Your Academic Background?

    Like

  6. Peter says:

    Mmmmmm…Undergraduate Student In Biology At A School In Europe?

    Like

    • RaceRealist says:

      Closer. I’m American though.

      I have a background in human movement sciences and a bit in physiology (personal trainer). Studying bio at Uni.

      Like

    • Peter says:

      Where In The U.S. And What Made You Want To Create A Blog About Human Evolution And Genetics?

      Like

    • Peter says:

      R, You’re Not Answering My Questions. Please Answer My Questions!

      Like

    • Peter says:

      Double R, Are You Sexually Jealous Of Black Males? Is That The Motivation Behind Some Of Your Essays?

      Like

    • RaceRealist says:

      No. I’m interested in science.

      Like

    • Peter says:

      I Like Science, Too, Double R., But I Don’t Write Essays Tinged With Anti-Black Sentiment. So, Back To My Original Question, Double R. What Made You Create A Blog About The Evolution Of Africans And Black Genetics? Are You Sure It Wasn’t Driven By Some Unconscious Animosity Towards Blacks. After All, They (Blacks) Are More Accepted In Mainstream American Society And As A Consequence They Dominate America’s Most Popular Sports And Their Hip Hop Music Is Having A Greater Influence On Society Than Most Would Like. Do You Think This Coupled With The Fact That Black Male-White Female Interracial Relationships And Interbreeding Is More Prevalent And More Tolerated May Be Driving Some Of Your Writings?

      Like

    • Phil78 says:

      “I Like Science, Too, Double R., But I Don’t Write Essays Tinged With Anti-Black Sentiment. So, Back To My Original Question, Double R. What Made You Create A Blog About The Evolution Of Africans And Black Genetics?”

      He blogs more about nutrition than he does about blacks, you clearly had a small sample size of his work.

      “Are You Sure It Wasn’t Driven By Some Unconscious Animosity Towards Blacks. After All, They (Blacks) Are More Accepted In Mainstream American Society And As A Consequence They Dominate America’s Most Popular Sports And Their Hip Hop Music Is Having A Greater Influence On Society Than Most Would Like.”

      He has written extensively why they certainly do have an advantage in sports, paints it in a positive light.

      Otherwise, the only thing he has written about Blacks in the past is crime statistics and in case you didn’t know he has retracted previous articles regarding a Testosterone explanation as most others would and looked and bio-sociological reasons.

      “Do You Think This Coupled With The Fact That Black Male-White Female Interracial Relationships And Interbreeding Is More Prevalent And More Tolerated May Be Driving Some Of Your Writings?”

      Not really how that’s even smaller than the pieces he rights on blacks.

      Like

    • Peter says:

      And Who Are You, Phil? What Are You Academic Credentials?

      Like

    • Phil78 says:

      Who am I? a guest author and reader of his articles.

      Second, let’s not beat around the bush with your question on “academic creditentials”, you clearly are just trying to hide your skepticism towards the individuals here due to the political climate and topics of this blog.

      I don’t blame you, but I ask that if you have any problems with me come forward with them and spare these questions that will span a week’s time before we actually get to the point.

      As for my credentials, I normally report and discuss findings by other scientists, usually anthropologists or population geneticists, on human evolution.

      I’m no major, just a hobbyist.

      See here

      https://notpoliticallycorrect.me/2017/07/27/origins-and-the-relationship-between-west-africans-and-hg-populations/

      https://notpoliticallycorrect.me/2017/07/30/did-we-come-from-australasia/

      Third, what does either question on my identity or qualifications have to do with the content of the blog’s author?

      Like

  7. Peter says:

    Hot Off The Presses! I Just Got This From Ralph! No Wonder I’m Poor, Mateless, And Homeless!

    Like

  8. GondwanaMan says:

    Nerds have only dominated in the last 60 years and particularly during the post-capitalist era. Before then jocks were the winners.

    I think it should also be pointed out that not everyone fits the need vs jock dichotomy. Nerdism is a suite of traits that includes low testosterone, poor social skills, and an orientation towards mechanistic/technological endeavors. There’s plenty of guys who are high on one or more of these traits but not the others.

    On the flip side, I’ve known guys with social prowess despite lacking athletic ability or other “alpha male” qualities.

    Liked by 1 person

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