Evolutionary theory of Aggression

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Evolutionary Theory

The Evolutionart expalination suggests that aggression serves an important function in terms of both individual survival as well as procreation.

One of the main concerns for our male ancestors was to find a mate and keep her 

According to Carrierb(2007) the need to maintaina mate brings males into competion with others and therfore causes them to be aggressive.

Male sexual Jealousy -  a state of fear caused by a real or imagined threat to thier status as an exclusive sexual partner. This may have developed ads a result of competion from mates 

Femal sexual infedility - this may reulst in the female or beaaring the chils of another man. it therfore had to be deterrd. for a our ancestors sexual jealusy was an adaptive response 

Dawkins proposed that genes drive us to reproduce only to ensure thier own succsess. In this approach clearly finding a mate and holding onto a mate and successfully reperoducing and passing on genes would be of paramount importance 

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Infidelity and Jealousy

Jealousy and Infidelity-Mate retention stratergies

a way of enhaning reperoductive fitness, this can range from vigilance to violence as ways of controlling females, it is used to deter infedity

Cuckoldry- when a woman decieves her male partners into investing into offspring concieved with another man

Mate Retention and Violence 

Buzz and Shackeleford (1997) -Mate retention in married couples 

  • study of 214 couples 
  • found more men used debasement and intersexual threats
  • women repeorted a greater use of verbal possesion signals and threats of punushing infedility
  • men married to younger women reported devoting more time into retention strategies thatn those married to older women  
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Evaluation of Infidelity


  • men who thought thier partners had been unfaithful were more likely to use sexual coercion than women
  • this supports the evolutionary explanation as it showns that men are at risk of being cuckolded not women

Wilson et al(1995)

  • among women whoe reported direct guarding by thier male partners 72% had been assulted by thier partner
  • this supports evolutionary psychology as it suggests that jealousy is the source of aggression in a relationship 
  • evolutionalry psychology is reductionist as it suggests that our behaviour exists because of our ancestors  
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Evaluation of Infidelity and Jealousy

Evolutionary psychology is also deterministic it suggests that out behaviour is genetically determined and current behaviour are not subject to free will 

This research is socially sensitive as it has impliactions for how society views domestic violence. it couldbe argued that extreme levels of agression are damaging fitness of indiviuals as they are likely to be caught and punished.

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Evaluation of Evolutionary Explanations

The approach fails to explain why individuals might react in such diffrent ways when faced with the same adaptive problems 

  • it also fails to expalin how attiudes toward sviolence varys greatly cross culturally e,g, the Yanomamo of south america require male violence for social status
  • the kung san of the khalahri dessert - aggression lead to damage to reputation of aggressor (Buss and Shackleford (1997)
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Evolutionary Group Display of Aggression in humans


claims that xenephobia is an integral feature of all animals which dispaly higher forms of social ororganisation. Natural selection has favoured the genes that caused human beings to be alturistic towards members of thier own group but intolerant towards outsiders.

Show and Wong(1989)

  • argue that mechanisnsms that promot suspisons thowrds stranges have been favoured in the process of natural selection.

Mac Donald(1992)

  • suggests that from an evolutonary perspective its adaptive to exaggerate negative stereotypes about outsiders as the overestimation of a threat is less costly than its underestimation
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Evolutionary Group Display of Aggression in humans

Evans and Rowe(2002)

analysed levels of aggression at matches played in europe by english clubs and by the england team 

violence was much more likely when the england team.Evans and Rowe suggested that English clubs are more ethically diverse than the england team and are less likely to invoke xenophobic response from foregin supporters.


  • suggests that violence and group dispalys of aggression in the sports crowds are inevitable.
  • individuals are drivien by forces of natural selection 
  • we do not have free will
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Group Displays of aggression :Lynch Mobs

The Power threat hypothesis 

  • prospects that lynch mobs are the result of majority group members attempting to maintain their dominace in the face of an expanding minorty 


  • as the minorty groups are percentage increase so does the majority groups discrimiating behaviour.
  • Lynch Mobs are a means od social control 


  • displays of solidarity and discmination becomes more likely when groups feel at risk
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Evaluation of Lynch Mobs

Clark (2006)

contradicted the power threat hypothesis: mobds in Sao Paulo where not conducted out of threat fear was not a majority was not a major casual factor in these ritual murders

Social Psychological Explanation for Lynch Mobs 

Deindividuation- a process of where by people lose thier sence of socialized individualn identity and engage in usocialised, often anti social behaviour (Hogg and Vaughan 2008).This explanation proposes that crowds lose thier sense of individual identity and their normal self regualting and social control


  • does not believe that dendivduation provides an adequate explanation of the evidence
  • most lynching took place in the day 
  • only a handful of angry citizens were actually party to the violence, where as in others there may have been thousands of witnesses 
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