Group displays as an adaptive response


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Discuss two or more explanations of group display as an adaptive response.
Myrdal claims that the fundamental cause of lynching in the US was fear of the Negro, which led
white mobs to turn to `lynch law' as a means of social control. Out of all documented cases, nearly 3
quarters of lynchings were black, which could be because, as Patterson suggests, they were more
active during this time because it was just after the collapse of slavery. This was a major social
transition and so the entire white community felt at risk. The threat model of lynch mobs is based on
Blalock's power-threat hypothesis. This says that groups that pose a threat to society are more likely
to be discriminated against and be the subject of violent action, for example, the racist myth of the
Negroes' uncontrollable desire to rape white women was frequently used in defence of the lynching
The theory of lynch mobs being an adaptive response has strong evidence to support it e.g. Boyd
and Richerson discovered that groups in which cooperation thrived were also those that flourished.
This therefore provides an explanation for why, when the majority group is more at risk as a
consequence of social change, individual self-interest would give way to `groupishness'. This
consequently shows that the explanation can be applied to real life examples and so it has high
ecological validity.
However, there is difficulty testing the nature of social threat because it is vague and poorly defined.
Clark provided evidence to contradict the claims that threat of `dangerous classes' in society was a
major causal factor of lynchings. For example, in Sao Paulo, the percentage of Afro-Brazillians in
society was negatively correlated with the incidents of lynch mob violence, although they were the
main victims. Therefore fear of minority groups is not a causal factor of lynching and refutes the
threat model.
Sosis believes that the inherent costs of religious rituals are a criticial feature that contributes to the
success of religion. He also believes that natural selection would have favoured their development
because by engaging in painful rituals e.g. self-flagellation, individuals are signalling their
commitment to the group and what it stands for. Religious behaviour consequently promotes
cooperation within a group. Zahari and Zahari suggest that the significant costs of religious rituals
serve as deterrents for anyone who wants to take advantage of the benefits of a group but do not
believe in its teachings.
Sosis and Bressler provide strong evidence to support the claim that costs of religious commitment
contribute to the longevity of religious groups. They found that religious groups tended to impose
twice as many costly requirements that non-religious groups and the number of costly requirements
was positively correlated with the lifespan of the group. This therefore shows that costly-signalling
theory is an effective adaptive response as it results in a long-lasting group.
Chen discovered that as the Indonesian financial crisis worsened, Muslim Indonesian families
contributed a greater proportion of their dwindling financial resources to religious observance. We
can see from this that in times of crisis, religious institutions provide social insurance, minimising risk
by collectively supporting the most needy, thus promoting group survival. Therefore, this theory can
be applied in the real world so strongly supports it as an adaptive response.
Group display theories appear to fit in with a key theory of aggression within groups, deindividuation
as seen by an archival study by Mullen. He found that as lynch mobs grew in size, the lynchers became

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in turn led to an increase in the level of atrocities committed against the victim. Therefore, although
seen as an adaptive response, group display isn't always good as it can lead to violence or people
being killed due to a group they have joined.…read more


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