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Discuss evolutionary explanations of human aggression, including infidelity and/or jealousy.
(8marks + 16 marks)
Evolutionary explanations of aggression are an adaptive response to ensure the genes are
passed onto their offspring.
Sexual jealousy is often the reason for aggression as males experience paternal uncertainty,
thus do not want to unwittingly invest resources in offspring that are not his own. The
adaptive functions of aggression in sexual jealousy are to deter women from sexual infidelity
and minimise the risk of cuckoldry.
Daly and Wilson (1985) established a link between sexual jealousy and aggression. They
found that 58 out of 214 murders had sexual jealousy as an underlying cause, mostly 2 men
fighting over one female.
27% of the murders were motivated by sexual jealousy to indicate it's a major factor
influencing aggression; the conclusions drawn from this research is that men use aggression
to constrain females so they have greater confidence in their paternity and deter other rival
Supporting evidence comes from research into animals. Bertram found that lions killed the
offspring of other males to ensure a higher likelihood of his own offspring surviving and his
genes being passed on. This act of aggression strongly favours an evolutionary purpose
because lions perform aggressive acts to ensure the survival of the fittest out of their own
In addition, mate retention strategies are commonly used by males. Shackleford et al found
a relationship between sexual jealousy & mate retention strategies and violence towards
women because men who suspected their wives of being unfaithful over the next year used
greater punishment than men who didn't expect future infidelities.
Sexual jealousy as an evolutionary response has significant practical applications for society.
The use of mate retention tactics by males can be an early indicator of violence against the
female partner, as highlighted by Shackleford's study. This suggests that awareness of mate
retention strategies can alert friends and family member of the danger signs that might
Therefore, help can be offered before sexual aggression caused by sexual jealousy ever
However, much research of infidelity is alpha biased by maximising the differences between
male and female behaviour in sexual jealousy. Women also practice mate retention
strategies and engage in violence against their partner. For instance, Felson examined 2,060
murders in the US and found that women were twice as likely to murder out of jealousy for
men; this is still relevant to an evolutionary explanation because female need males to bring
resources and shelter and would be sexually jealous if males devoted these things to
another female. This suggests that much of the research into male aggressive tendencies
provides a limited view of what actually happens outside the stereotypical image.
Another evolutionary explanation of aggression is sexual coercion whereby a consequence
of a man's perceptions of infidelity in their partner is sexual coercion or partner rape. Sexual
assaults on a female are directly linked to the perceived risk of her infidelity. Female victims
of partner rap are likely to have engaged in extra-marital sex (Shields et al).
Using a survey method, Camilleri found that the risk of a partner's infidelity predicts sexual
coercion among males only, most likely because males are the only mates at risk of
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In addition, Camilleri also found that men convicted of raping their partners were more likely
to have experienced cuckoldry risks prior to their offence compared to men convicted on
non-sexual partner abuse.
However, there are methodological limitations to Camilleri's research because the use of
surveys in a particularly controversial subject such as inter-relationship aggression can lead
to participants exhibiting a social desirability bias to under-report undesirable behaviour, thus
lessening the internal validity of Camilleri's study.…read more