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Laura Praill 13P1 09/12/13
Describe and evaluate evolutionary explanations of aggression (24m)
Looking at aggression as an evolutionary response means using evolutionary psychology,
suggesting that the reason aggression arose was due to natural selection. An issue our ancestors
once face which could be eliminated by evolving a particular behaviour and that behaviour is still
present today. The behaviour allowed our ancestors to survive and breed, and the behaviour has not
been selected out since. It is the study of behaviours in the terms of reproductive success.
Konrad Lorenz (1966) stressed that humans are animals, and much like other animals show
aggression. He suggested that both humans and animals are governed by the same laws of natural
selection. He said that there are parallels between humans and animals that are oversimplified and
outdated. The four main drives behind the behaviour of animals have always been considered fear,
reproduction, hunger and aggression. These behaviours ensure the fittest and strongest males are
selected by females for reproduction, ensuring that the offspring have a higher chance of survival.
Aggression has an evolutionary adaptive advantage here, as aggressive parents that can protect
their young will therefore have offspring which will grow up to pass on their own genes safely.
Lorenz used these explanations to justify comparing human aggression to animal aggression, along
with explaining both humans and many animals have ritualised aggression when competing for
mates. Stags jutting with each other and human males playing competitive sport are forms or
ritualised aggression in order to prove themselves worthy mating partners. Many other psychologists
have criticised Lorenz's views, however, for being reductionist. Some have said that human's
ritualised aggression is more destructive than ritualistic, as weapons are often used.
Some evolutionary psychologists suggest that in the past, our ancestors would have faced issues
regarding success when mating. This led to evolved sex differences, including sex differences in
jealousy. Sexual jealousy seen with men is a widespread topic when referring to violence in
interpersonal relationships. Even in modern cultures, the murder of adulterous wives or their lovers if
often encouraged. Even as recently at 1974, a Texas man was not punished for murdering his wife's
It has been suggested that men have evolved several different strategies to deter their female
partners from committing adultery (Daly and Wilson, 1988). These are all fuelled by male jealousy,
and range from vigilance to violence. These are adaptive responses that evolved in order to deal with
the threat of any paternal uncertainty, which could lead to adultery. Preventing a mate from sexual
infidelity has an adaptive advantage, as it minimises the risk of cuckoldry. Cuckoldry involves a man
unwittingly investing his resources in offspring that are not his own, as a result of a mate committing
adultery. As men can never be entirely sure if they are the fathers of their children due to the hidden
nature of fertilisation, cuckoldry is a risk and has reproductive costs for the male. If Cuckoldry
happens, men lose both invested resources and any reproductive opportunity therefore it is
adaptive to prevent this from occurring.
To prevent adultery and possible cuckoldry, men will use these evolved adaptive strategies. `Direct
guarding' and `negative inducements' of the female can prevent this. Direct guarding involves a
restriction of a female's sexual anatomy, which stops rival males from gaining access to females. A
modern example of this strategy would be coming home early to see what the female partner is
doing. A study in 1995 showed that women who agreed with statements such as `he is jealous and
doesn't want you to speak with other men' were twice as likely to have experienced serious domestic
violence. Negative inducements would involve threats about infidelity, as a result of sexual jealousy,
which of course can lead to domestic violence. Those who are perceived to be threatening infidelity
are more at risk of suffering domestic violence. Women who cite extreme jealousy on their partners
have been seen as a key majority of battered women (Dobash and Dobash, 1984).
Many studies however focus on male retention and violence, and very few look at women's retentions
and violence which do occur. Women have been recorded to show just as much violence towards
their partners as men, but it has not yet been investigated whether this is also linked to reproductive
success and evolutionary adaptions.
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Laura Praill 13P1 09/12/13
It is not often, however, that a female kills a partner. Uxorocide (wifekilling) is thought to be an
unintended outcome of an evolutionary adaption (aggression) that was designed for control, yet
resulted in death. Murder couldn't have evolved as a strategy unless it was associated with greater
reproductive success. Nowadays, the extreme costs of committing murder greatly outweigh benefits.…read more