To end a civil war and establish a democracy, you need to give every faction a sense that it can attain power peacefully—or so runs the political-science conventional wisdom. But a new paper begs to differ. Using the case of Colombia’s mid-century civil war, known as “La Violencia,” in which the country’s Liberal and Conservative parties formed militias and fought one another, the authors find that the interparty warfare was most intense in municipalities where the two parties were evenly matched and had roughly equal chances of taking power through peaceful means. Thus their proposed alternative model of political conflict holds that “in a situation where all groups have a high chance of winning an election, they may also have a high chance of winning a fight,” and so be more likely to choose open war, with its chance for a winner-take-all outcome, over the ballot box.
—“When Is Democracy an Equilibrium?” Mario Chacon, James A. Robinson, Ragnar Torvik, NBER
|Women Find a man more attractive
if another woman smiles at him.
Noting that female animals—from guppies to quail—are more likely to be drawn to males paired off with other females, a group of researchers looked for a similar effect in humans. They asked female and male subjects to compare the attractiveness of eight pairs of male faces. Then they showed participants the same faces in a slideshow, with each pair separated by a photo of a woman, either smiling or looking neutral and turned toward one of the two men. When shown the original pairs again, the women increased their preference for a man who’d had a smiling female face turned in his direction during the slideshow; their preference for a man with an unsmiling woman turned his way decreased. The male subjects, meanwhile, were more likely to increase their preference for a man who was being regarded neutrally by a woman than for one who was being smiled at. Thus, the authors suggest, “within-sex competition promotes negative attitudes among men towards other men who are the target of positive social interest from women.”