Evolutionary Explanations of Human Agression

Notes I made for mt A2 exams.

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Evolutionary Explanations of
Human Aggression
The evolution of Jealousy
Aggression as an adaptive function for men- Infidelity and aggression
Daly & Wilson 1988- aggression is caused by strategies (male retention strategies) to deal with
adultery...a man doesn't want to waste time and resources bringing up someone else's child and
can never be certain that a child is 100% theirs but women can always be certain the child is theirs, so
men are always at risk of cuckoldry which will lead them to waste time and resources.
Jealously, a natural response has arisen to deal with the threat of parental uncertainty. Adaptive
functions of sexual jealousy are to deter women away from infidelity, preventing cuckoldry which
wastes a man's resources.
Male retention (preservation) strategies, strategies evolved for the purpose of keeping a mate
and preventing cuckoldry...
Direct guarding- Vigilance against infidelity - e.g. restricting woman's movement, checking text
messages, coming home unexpectedly
Negative inducements- Deferring women from infidelity- threatens with violence.
Shakleford 2005: Survey found males who often use retention strategies most likely to be
violent... Shows a clear link between male retention strategies and violence towards female
partner, suggesting male retention skills main cause of violence. However this doesn't explain why
they were using were using retention strategies or in the first place and doesn't make the link
between jealousy and violence. ...methodology... survey: men may have lied saying they use
more retention strategies in order to appear more manly etc. conform to social expectations +
social desirability bias may exaggerate desirable behaviour or underreport non desirable
Wilson at al 1995- women who described their husbands being jealous most likely to be victims
of violence in the home and with 72% of these seeking medical attention following an assault from
a male partner.... Suggesting jealousy leads to violence.

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Bus and Shakleford 1997- men who suspected wives might cheat in the next year, exacted greater
punishments for any suspected infidelity, than men who did not. Consistent with evolutionary
psychology that suggest mate retention strategies are evoked when a threat is imminent.
Research in this area can warn women and family members what to expect and danger signs that
can lead to greater violence in the relationship.
Studies of battered women...cited jealousy as being the reason behind the assaults. Suggests
jealousy leads to violence.
Uroxocide...…read more

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Murder quite costly to pursue (maladaptive) as it is particularly dangerous for the killer, as fear of
retribution. Selection instead favours deceptive responses such as concealment of homicidal intent
and defences.
If aggression is purely an adaptive response then everyone should be the same but why then are
there such large cultural differences? In some cultures such as the yanomamo aggression is used to
maintain and gain status.…read more


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