Group displays and aggression

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Outline and Evaluate evolutionary explanations into group display
(24 Marks)
Aggressive group displays may have emerged amongst our ancestors because they increased
fitness in some way. According to Wilson xenophobia (a fear and hatred of strangers/foreigners)
has been documented in virtually every group of animals displaying higher forms of social
organisation. Natural selection may have favoured those genes that caused human beings to be
altruistic toward members of their own group but intolerant towards outsiders. Shaw and Wong
argue that mechanisms that prompt suspicion towards outsiders would have been favoured by
natural selection. Hatred of others (outsiders) would have protected human beings from attack
and exaggerating negative stereotypes about outsiders is less costly than it's under perception.
Males may have evolved a specific tribal psychology that increases intergroup aggression and
includes in group favouritism, out group derogation (belittling) and dehumanisation of the out
group. There is evidence for this in sports displays. E.G: Podaliri and Balestri's (1998) analysis of
the behaviour of Italian football crowds. Displays were openly xenophobic and anti-Semitic and
expressed out group hostility while consolidating in group solidarity.
Foldesi (1996) provides support for the link between sports displays and xenophobia in Hungarian
football crowds. He found that racist chants and banners from extremist supporters led to an
increase in spectator violence in general. Xenophobic abuse was targeted at spectators, players,
managers and referees. Gypsies, Jews and homosexuals were also often targets of discrimination.
Waller stated that terrorist attacks and genocides can be explained by evolutionary theory. A
sense of them and us is important and helps define boundaries.
Lynch mobs have been explained using the power-threat hypothesis. Blalock suggests that as
minority group membership grows, the majority group members will intensify efforts to gain
dominance. Power-threat is about the fear of political power in the hands of the minority. The
white majority feared growing `negro power' and so turned to lynch law.
Warfare may have adaptive benefits. Those who do better in battle for example may be rewarded
with mates and also with peer respect. Displays of aggressiveness and bravery are attractive to
females and their absence reduces the attractiveness of males. Male warriors in traditional
societies tend to have more mates. Displays of bravery and aggressiveness mean that individuals
are more likely to share the benefits associated with status which in turn increase reproductive
However, an explanation of group displays of aggression in football matches as an adaptive
response is reductionist and simplifies the reasons for football hooliganism, while not explaining
why only certain social groups tend to involve themselves in this form of display anyway. Many
other sport events other than football have no issue with Xenophobia. An example of this is Rugby
where supporters actually sit together in stadiums and such aggressive group behaviour is not
really an issue and in comparison, supporters are relatively relaxed. Marsh offers an alternative
explanation for aggressive displays at football matches. He says it should not be explained
adaptively but in fact is to do with lack of opportunity of working-class males. Football hooliganism

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­ something they are unable to do otherwise.
Even in modern day warfare, men fight to secure access to women (Pinker, 1977). Rape has been
witnessed in many conflicts around the world. For example, more than 20,000 Muslim women and
girls were raped in Bosnia by the Serbs. The aim was to increase the number of Serbian babies
born as was part of a programme of ethnic cleansing.…read more


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