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Discuss evolutionary explanations of human aggression
Daly and Wilson (1988) claim that men have evolved several different strategies to clear their
female partners from committing adultery. These range from vigilance to violence, but all are fuelled
by male jealousy, an adaption that evolved specifically to deal with the threat of paternal uncertainty
So Buss (1988) suggests that males have a number of strategies that have evolved specifically for
the purpose of keeping a mate. These include direct guarding of the female, negative inducements
that would prevent her from straying. By direct guarding our male ancestors would have been able
to deter rivals from gaining access to their mates. A modern example of direct guarding is vigilance,
for example, coming home unexpectedly to see what a female partner is up to.
Wilson et al (1995) found that women who agreed with questionnaire items such as `he is jealous and
doesn't want you to talk with other men', were twice as likely to have experienced serious violence
from their partners, and 72% of these would have acquired medical attention following an assault
from their male partner.
Men may also attempt to retain their partners by offering threats (negative inducements) for any
infidelity. Because sexual jealous is a primary cause of violence against women, those who are
perceived by their partner to be threatening infidelity (looking at another man) are more at risk of
violence than those who are not. Studies of battered women, for example, have shown that in the
majority of cases, women cite extreme jealousy on the part of their husbands or boyfriends as the
key cause. (Dobash and Dobash 1984)
Shackelford et al (2005) used a survey method to test predictions concerning mate retention
strategies. He used 461 men and 560 women in the US. All were in committed, heterosexual
relationships. Males were asked about their mate retention techniques, were assessed on how often
they used any of the 26 types of violent act against their partner. Women were asked about their
partner's retention techniques, and the degree to which their partner used violence against them.
Men's use of retention techniques were positively correlated with their violence scores. Emotional
manipulation also seemed to predict their violence against their partners. Women's scores backed up
this trend, with reports of direct guarding and intersexual negative inducements being positively
correlated with their experience of female-directed violence.
This finding is consistent with the claim in evolutionary psychology that the mate retention strategies
evoked only when a particular adaptive problem is faced, in this case the belief that the wife's
infidelity is likely. However data was collected using a survey technique, so answers may not be
truthful because of the social desirability bias, which takes form of over reporting desirable
behaviour and under reporting undesirable behaviour. Although it is important to note that this type
of research has highlighted particular tactics of mate retention used by males and can be an early
indicator of violence against the female partner, so that family and friends can be alerted to the
danger signs of the specific acts that can lead to future violence in relationships.
Uxorocide is the practice of wife killing. This is a method of mate retention. Men usually keep their
mate by conferring benefits or by inflicting costs, such as violence. Not all men possess resources to
use as benefits, so they are more prone to using violence, or threatening violence. (Shackelford et
al., 2000) Daly and Wilson (1988) suggest that uxorocide isn't a method of mate retention, but it is
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Duntley and Buss (2005) explain these findings by saying that a partner's infidelity carries a double
loss for the male, particularly when the female is still of reproductive age, not only does he lose a
partner but another man gains his partner and increases his own fitness. By killing his wife, he at least
prevents a competitor from gaining in the reproductive stakes.
The majority of homicide killers and victims are men.…read more