Discuss evolutionary explanations of human aggression including infidelity and jealousy (8+16 marks)
One area of evolutionary explanations of human aggression is jealousy. Shackelford et al (2005) conducted a study into mate-retention and aggression. They did a survey in the US on 461 men and women in committed heterosexual relationships. The males were assessed on how often they performed any of 26 types of violent acts; men who performed more of these acts were seen as more aggressive in the relationship. Emotional manipulation was mainly used, for example threatening to kill themselves if their partner left them.
Another theory is cuckoldry and jealousy. Men can never be sure that they are the father so as a result are at risk of cuckoldry. The consequence of cuckoldry is that the man might invest his resources in offspring that are not his own. The adaptive functions of sexual jealousy would therefore have been to deter a mate from sexual infidelity, thereby minimising the risk of cuckoldry.
However research into human aggression and jealousy can be heavily criticised. Shackelford’s study is not generalisable as it only accounts for heterosexual relationships. It also cannot be generalised to other cultures due to cultural bias in research. The study was carried out in the US which is a Western culture so does not give explanation for individualistic cultures. A further criticism is that surveys were used. Surveys can lead to a social desirability bias as men may not be inclined to admit t they are aggressive to their partner, and women may not admit to partner aggression in fear they will be abused more. This also links to ethical issues. As it is a sensitive subject, it may bring up repressed memories and cause psychological harm. Women participants may fear that there is no confidentiality and that their partners will find out and cause more harm.
There is also gender bias in mate retention as…