Evolutionary Explanations for Human Aggression

Evolutionary explanations for human aggression, AO1 and AO2.

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AO1 - Cuckoldry and Sexual Jealousy

  • Unlike women, men can never be entirely sure that they are the fathers of their children, as fertilisation is hidden from them inside the woman
  • As a result, men are always at the risk of cuckoldry: the reproductive cost that might be inflicted on a man as a result of his partner's infidelity
  • The consequence of cuckoldry is that the man might unwittingly invest his resources in offspring that is not his own
  • The adaptive function of sexual jealousy would have been to deter a mate from sexual infidelity, thereby minimising the risk of cuckoldry
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AO1 - Mate Retention and Violence

  • Buss: males have a number of strategies that have evolved specifically for the purpose of keeping a mate

Direct guarding

  • By restricting their partner's sexual autonomy, our male ancestors would have been able to deter rivals from getting access to their mate
  • A modern example of direct guarding is 'vigilance', i.e. coming home unexpectedly to see what a female partner is up to
  • Wilson et al: women whose partner 'is jealous and doesn't want you talking to other men' were twice as likely to have experienced violence by them
  • 72% required medical attention following an assault by their male partner

Negative inducements

  • Men may also attempt to retain their partners by offering threats for any infidelity
  • Those who are perceived by their partner to be threatening infidelity (e.g. by looking at another man) are more at risk of violence
  • Dobash and Dobash: in the majority of cases of woman-beating, extreme jealousy on the part of the boyfriend or husband has been the cause
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AO1 - Uxorocide (wife-killing)

  • Men can guard against their partner's infidelity either by conferring benefits or by inflicting costs, including violence
  • Shackelford et al: men who do not possess resources that might be used to provide benefits are more prone to use violence, or the threat thereof
  • Daly and Wilson: death of the partner from physical violence may be an unintended outcome of an evolutionary adaptation designed for control
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AO2 - Research Support

  • Buss and Shackelford: studied a series of men
  • Men who suspected that their wives might be unfaithful over the next year exacted greater punishment for a known or suspected infidelity than men who did not anticipate future infidelities
  • This finding is consistent with the claim that mate retention strategies are evoked only when a particular adaptive problem is faced
  • In this case the belief that the wife's infidelity is likely
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AO2 - Practical Applications of Research

  • Particular tactics of mate retention used by males can be an early indicator of violence against the female partner
  • These findings could potentially be used to alert friends and families to the danger signs; the specific acts that can lead to future violence in relationship
  • At this point, help can be sought or offered before the violence ever happens
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AO2 - Uxorocide

  • Daly and Wilson's explanation of uxorocide was challenged by Shackelford et al, who analysed over 13,000 husband-to-wife homicides
  • The younger women had a much greater risk of uxorocide regardless of the age of their partner
  • The fact that men kill their wives when they are most reproductively valuable contradicts the evolutionary view that these women are 'prized property'
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AO2 - The Evolved Homicide Module Theory

  • Duntley and Buss: a partner's infidelity carries a double loss for a male, particularly when the female is still of reproductive age
  • Another man gains a partner and increases his own fitness
  • By killing his wife, he at least prevents a competitor from gaining in the reproductive stakes
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IDA - Gender Bias

  • Most studies of infidelity have focused solely on men's mate retention strategies and men's violence against women
  • However, women also engage in mate retention tactics and sometimes behave violently towards their partners
  • Women do initiate and carry out assaults on their partners as much as men do
  • Archer: family conflict studies find approximately equal rates of assaults by women and men
  • Women's mate retention tactics could also be linked to partner-directed violence
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IDA - Problems with Surveys

  • Answers may not be truthful because of the social desirability bias
  • This takes the form of over-reporting desirable behaviour and under-reporting undesirable behaviour
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