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Explanations for group display, e.g.
sports events & lynch mobs
A01 Describing theory (9 marks)
Assumption = That group display (team aggression) is best explained in
an evolutionary sense. This means that it is adaptive to be aggressive as
a group and our ancestors would have found it useful for survival or
Group display. This behaviour which is characteristic of primates may
serve, in some contexts, as an aggressive threat. It apparently
represents an independent motivational system, although little is known
about its brain organization. It certainly occurs, in humans as well,
where its functions range from the cheering at a sports event to the
aggressive cries of a lynch mob.
Evolutionary Theory 1 = Social Transition Theory
Myrdal claims that the key cause of lynching in the US was fear of the
Negro, leading to white mobs turning to "lynch law" as a means of social
control. Of all documented cases, three quarters were black. Patterson
suggests that they were more active at this time because it was a period
of social transition, after the collapse of the slavery, entire community
felt at risk.
The Social Transitions theory of group display suggests that the
fundamental causes of aggression are:
· A threat to a whole community as a result of a major social
transition combined with;
· A fear of a subgroup by the majority
Aggression then is a result of...
· A strong group feeling that their survival is under threat and...
· Acting to protect their survival through co-operative group
defence (teaming up)
· This aggression often comes in the form of antagonism to
· Lynching is adaptive as it increases the chances of survival
for the whole community therefore improving their
Evolutionary Theory 2 = Power Threat Hypothesis
· A majority perceives a threat from a subgroup
· The subgroup more likely to be discriminated against and be
the subject of violent action
· Aggression occurs as a display of power by the majority in
response to a perceived threat by the subgroup.
· Lynching is an adaptive response to a perceived threat of
survival/resources/offspring etc. Similar to chimpanzee
Our society has evolved much more quickly than our biology (genome
lag). This means that we may express biological drives which don't make
sense in our EEA anymore, e.g. drive to be aggressive as a group
through warfare. We can channel that drive through something more
socially acceptable which does fit into our EEA, e.g. sport team
· Ritualised form of aggression benefits of success available
to competitors with reduced risk of physical harm / death.
· Winning team hold high status, team members seen as
· In certain games (e...g, rugby union) a level of aggression is
sanctioned but some players still break the rules.
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Maxwell & Viscek (2009) questioned 144 rugby union
players about their aggression in the game.
· Those high in professionalism placed more emphasis on
winning and were more likely to use unsanctioned aggression.
· Cheating (and not getting caught) is adaptive.
SPECTATORS OF SPORT
· Victory in matches also brings status to fans
· Cialdini et al (1976) `basking in reflected glory' after a
university football team had performed well, students more
likely to wear university scarves and sweaters.…read more
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It does not account for those people who choose to go against the aggressive group and do not join
behaviour? in the behaviour, e.g. people who refused to go to war (conscientious objectors) or people who stand
against lynching, even at the risk of their own lives.
> Group display/Evolutionary explanations are difficult to measure. However, there is evidence of
chimpanzees acting in such a manner, although this does not come from human studies, it supports the
idea that aggressive group display is adaptive.…read more