Abstract An important prediction from game theory is that the value of a resource influences the level to which male–male conflict escalates. Earlier experimental studies have shown that the seven salticid species we study here ( Bavia aericeps, Euryattus sp., Hypoblemum albovittatum, Jacksonoides queenslandicus, Marpissa marina, Portia africana and Simaetha paetula) determine by sight whether a female is a conspecific or a heterospecific and then escalate the intensity with which they interact (i.e., they adopt behaviour that is likely to put them at greater risk of injury after detecting the presence of a conspecific female). Here the earlier studies are extended by using the odour of conspecific females (experimental tests) and heterospecific females (control tests), and by presenting each male with his mirror image as well as having two males interact with each other. Findings from this study suggest that, for J. queenslandicus and P. africana, the odour of conspecific females, more than the odour of heterospecific females, primes the male to escalate conflict with a potential rival. However, this was not found for the other five species tested.