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Outline and evaluate evolutionary explanations of human aggression.
One evolutionary psychologist's who investigated the causes of aggression was Lorenz.
He argued that aggression is adaptive, and is the same in both humans and animals, for
example aggressive behaviour can often occur over food, mating and territory. Lorenz also
proposes that aggression is an overt behaviour: it is designed to inflict damage on someone
else, for example males use it to ensure reproductive success. They do this in two ways:
through infidelity and through jealousy.
Infidelity impacts upon the relationship, in particular communication within it. If one partner
cheats with someone else, this threatens the status quo of the relationship, and more than
often the relationship doesn't survive. Buss argues that in order to prevent infidelity, several
mate retention strategies have evolved. These are designed to reduce or eliminate the threat
that has been posed to the relationship. The two most common mate retention strategies are
direct guarding and negative inducements. Direct guarding involves keeping a constant
surveillance on a partner in order to deter others from threatening their relationship. It also
serves the purpose of warning the partner that if they do cheat, they will know about it. On
the other hand, negative inducement is the punishment of a mate's infidelity through threats
and emotional manipulation. Therefore this idea supports the claim that the most common
cause of violence against women is to prevent them from infidelity. However Buss can be
criticised as his theory of mate retention strategies only applies to heterosexual long term
relationships, therefore it cannot be generalised to homosexual relationships or short term
ones. This suggestion also ignores individual differences, as not everyone will respond to the
threat of infidelity in the same way.
Another example of research into the area was conducted by Shackleford et al who used
a survey of 461 men and 560 women from the US who were in committed heterosexual
relationships. They found a relationship between mate retention strategies, sexual jealousy
and violence: partners were more likely to use mate retention strategies when adaptive
problems were faced, such as partner infidelity. Therefore they concluded that emotional
manipulation predicts violence. This could provide valuable insight into the prevention of
domestic violence: by identifying the controlling behaviour and stopping the abuse. On the
other hand, Shackleford's research can be criticised as it is unethical invasion of privacy.
The research is also ethnocentric as its participants are all from the US, so the findings
cannot be applied to collectivist cultures. It is also a reductionist study: it ignores the
influence of biology upon a reaction to infidelity. The assumption that infidelity will lead to the
use of mate retention strategies which will then lead to violence is a deterministic suggestion,
therefore the research can be criticised. Shackleford's research method can also be
criticised because of the uneven sample sizes of males and females. The odd numbers could
reduce the validity of the research findings. However the method used is very advantageous
as it is good for using sensitive subjects such as this.
Evolutionary psychologists also argue that a second factor causes aggression: jealousy.
Jealousy is a byproduct of infidelity, and it can be argued from an evolutionary perspective,
has evolved to protect lineage and prevent cuckoldry: the accidental rearing of another
man's child. In Brunk et al's research, they found that males get most jealous over the
paternity of their children, an issue that could be thrown into the question as a result of
infidelity by their partner. On the other hand, females are jealous of the lack of emotional
support that is a consequence from infidelity. This jealousy leads them to be more
aggressive. Therefore Brunk et al concluded that causal factors effect jealousy, and another
psychologist, Harvey, expanded on this by saying that these factors are complex and
multidimensional. Another evolutionary psychologist, Canary et al, found that violent males
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Archer supports this claim, by saying that direct or indirect aggression is the most common
response to jealousy. Males use direct physical aggression, whereas females use verbal,
psychological indirect aggression.
The evolutionary perspective therefore claims that the more aggressive a person is, the
more partners they will have so they will pass on their genes to more offspring. The genes
that could have made them aggressive will be passed on to the children, therefore creating
an increasingly aggressive species.…read more