Evolutionary Perspectives on Human Aggression

Human Nature 23 (1):1-4 (2012)
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The papers in this volume present varying approaches to human aggression, each from an evolutionary perspective. The evolutionary studies of aggression collected here all pursue aspects of patterns of response to environmental circumstances and consider explicitly how those circumstances shape the costs and benefits of behaving aggressively. All the authors understand various aspects of aggression as evolved adaptations but none believe that this implies we are doomed to continued violence, but rather that variation in aggression has evolutionary roots. These papers reveal several similarities between human and nonhuman aggression, including our response to physical strength as an indicator of fighting ability, testosterone response to competition, a sensitivity to paternity, and baseline features of intergroup aggression in foragers and chimps. There is also one paper tackling the phylogeny of these traits. The many differences between human and nonhuman aggression are also pursued here. Topics here include the impact of modern weapons and extremes of wealth and power on both the costs and benefits of fighting, and the scale to which coercion can promote aggression that acts against a fighter’s own interests. Also the implications of large-scale human sociality are discussed.



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