Evolutionary explanations of aggression

Infidility and Jealousy

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  • Created by: chloe
  • Created on: 09-04-14 12:49



Aggression can be explained in terms of the ability to increase survival chances, and therefore to enhance reproductive success.

This theory is based on infidelity and jealousy.

A major concern for our ancesters was to find a mate. Trying to retain a mate is often accompanied by infidelity and jealousy.

Men are more likely to experience sexual jealousy because of the fear of cuckoldry. 

Cuckoldry- Reproductive cost that may be inflicted on a man as a result of his partner's infidelity (being unfaithful to a spouse or other sexual partner). They will live in fear thar they may be investing their resources e.g. money in offspring which are not their own. The adaptive functions of sexual jealousy would have been to discourage a mate from infidelity, thus minimising risk of cuckoldry

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Males tend to have a number of ways that have evolved for keeping a mate. Several studies show how in most cases, women cite jealousy as the key cause of violence towards them

Buss (1992)- Interviewed a sample of men + women asking whether they would be more jealous if their partner had a meaningful relationship with another, or a sexual relationship with another person.

Findings: The majority of men said they would be more jealous if their partner has a sexual relationship with another, while the majority of women would be more jealous if their partner formed an emotional attachment to another

A02 This shows how men and women think differently in terms of what would make them jealous in a relationship, supporting that there is an evolutionary link between sexual jealousy and aggression.

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Males are believed to be the most common motivation for killings in domestic disputes in the USA and UK. However, they are not always the perpetrators but are sometimes the victims

A summary of 8 studies was carried out by Wilson and Daly on killings within samesex 'love-triangles'.

Findings: 92% were male-male murders, 8% female-female murders

This implies that male sexual jealousy is a key motivator of samesex aggression.


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Shackelford et al

Used a survey method in order to test predictions concerning mate retention strategies

  • Male participants were anonymously asked how they retain their parters, and how often aggressive behaviour occurs in their relationship

Findings: Mate retention strategies (e.g. threats and emotional manipulation) correlated with aggression

This provides support for the idea that mate retention occurs as a result of jealousy, and is a key influence in evolutionary explanations for aggression

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A03- Shackelford et al.

Methodological issues- Survey

  • Social desirability bias- answers may not be truthful. Over reporting 'desirable' information
  • They may answer untruthfully- preventing the researchers from being aware that they threaten their partners

Individual differences

  • Not all men/all women act in the same way, many relationships involve no violence. Some turn to drink for example.
  • Difficult to generalise to everyone in terms of how they retain their partners when they are suspicious of behaviour. Thus suggests that aggression is not a universal response to sexual jealousy and infedility
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Gender Bias- Studies into infedility and mate retention are more commonly carried out on men- gender bias.

Research has found that not only men carry out mate retention strategies, but women are just as likely e.g. through psychological manipulation.

Felson et al. found that women are two times more likely to murder our of jealousy than men. Therefore, the focus on men presents a bias analysis of the relationship between jealousy and aggression. Thus, limiting our understanding of mate retention strategies for both genders.

Reductionist- Ignores the role of social psychological explanations e.g. social learning/imitation and deindividuation. Although it looks at evolutionary factors, it does not consider the biological influeces e.g. neural/ hormonal/ genetics.

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