Evolutionary explanations of Aggression

A01 and A02 included.

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Evolutionary explanations: Group displays in humans
People in groups may act differently compared to how they act individually. Some behaviour only
occurs when like-minded people come together for a purpose. Adaptive purposes- whether joining
the group benefits the individual.
2 group displays:
Lynch mobs
Religious/cultural displays
Lynch mobs-a group of people kill a person for a presumed offence, without legal authority. For
example, Southern states of US from 1882-1930 documented 2805 victims (usually African
American males) of lynch mobs. On average, one victim was murdered each week by a mob. The
reasons that were given were that the victims demanded respect, were being disreputable or
improper with white women (Tolnay and Beck use to back up points).
Evolutionary explanations for this are the power threat hypothesis and dehumanisation.
1. Power threat hypothesis
Lynch mobs are formed because individuals are trying to keep their dominance/power. This is an
adaptive purpose for the lynch mob meaning that it benefits individuals to be part of the powerful
majority. Blalock (1967) states that it is a response to fear of minority (black) threatening the power
of majority (white). For example, the above reasons that Tolnay and Beck reported, such as black
people demanding respect, is a power threat.
A02: Evaluation of power threat hypothesis
Not supported by other examples of lynching- For example, in Sao Paulo, Brazil, victims do not
pose a political/economic threat to dominant groups therefore the fear of minority is not a causal
factor in killings.
Better explained as deindividuation- Lynching often takes place at night, in large groups, in
anonymous groups etc... therefore it does not need to be an adaptive aspect to the group
behaviour. However, it may also be a combination.
2. Dehumanisation
Lynching is seen as an evolved adaptation to perceived threats combined with years of racist
propaganda. `Negroes' were dehumanised- simplistic, animalistic debasing stereotypes along with
being labelled `negroes' instead of being called by name. They are reduced to a hated object to
make the actions acceptable and defend the community from black brutality.
A02: Evaluation of dehumanisation
Supported by other examples of lynching- Lynching is common in Guatemala where it involves
degradation such as burning victims. Therefore dehumanisation makes it easier to eliminate rivals.

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Religious/cultural displays- For example, Shia Muslims self-flagellation (whipping themselves) or
Christians' crucifix rituals. These are all self-directed aggressive acts.
The reasons for this could be the co-operative gains or to deter free riders.
1. Co-operative gains
There are adaptive gains to living in a group and sharing resources. It is therefore beneficial in terms
of surviving and so showing your commitment with displays is beneficial.
2. Deter free riders
Free riders are people who use up resources without contributing to the group.…read more


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