It's official: men really do act like a herd of animals on a lads' night out

Roger Dobson
Sunday 23 February 2003 01:00

Lads out drinking operate in packs of four and mimic the behaviour of a herd of red deer, according to a study into pub and club culture.

Lads out drinking operate in packs of four and mimic the behaviour of a herd of red deer, according to a study into pub and club culture.

Psychologists have confirmed what many have long suspected – that boys act like animals when out on the town. Their actions are akin to "lekking", an evolutionary tactic favoured by animals such as the red deer.

"In most animals, areas away from the feeding or nesting areas that are consistently used for communal displays by members of both sexes are referred to as leks. The location of the night out, the pubs, clubs and streets, become, during the hours of Friday and Saturday nights, analogous to leks," say evolutionary psychologists who have carried out the first academic study of boys' nights out.

For the research, non-drinking academics spent several weekends observing and recording the activities of young men drinking in Wigan, Lancashire, and Huddersfield, West Yorkshire. The youths, mainly aged under 21, socialised mostly in packs of four or more, and their nights out could last up to eight hours, starting at about 7.30pm and continuing until nightclubs closed at 2am or later.

Drinking alcohol was a key activity. "Many went out with the stated intention of 'getting pissed', although meeting a member of the opposite sex was often the preferred aim," the psychologists said in a report in the journal Psychology, Evolution and Gender.

Drinking aside, the behaviour of the men followed that of many other male mammals in the presence of females. "There is competition, sizing up or weighing up of the opposition,"says Prof John Archer who directed the research at the University of Central Lancashire.

The researchers found that young men, like the red deer, spent a considerable amount of time eyeing up potential male competition in a ritual known as the "face-off".

In the ritual of baiting, men made remarks to others they passed. "The individuals who made the remarks were apparently doing so to make their companions laugh, and to impress them. Many such remarks were clearly aimed at insulting or abusing others,'' the report says.

Once inside a pub or club, the men sized up both the men and women, albeit for different reasons. In the ritual of male sizing-up, the aim was to see whether other men were a threat. "Men would often perceive other men 'sizing them up' as a challenge, particularly when it involved 'giving someone the eye', that is staring at another man in an aggressive manner. The common phrase 'What you looking at?' describes this initial exchange that can quickly escalate into a fight,'' says the report.

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