Evolutionary Explanations Of Aggression Psychology A2

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Evolutionary explanations of aggression.

The concept of evolution is undoubtedly a scientific one, combining many areas of science in the explanation of the success of all species. From an evolutionary approach, aggression is primarily considered to be an adaptive behaviour driven by internal, biological factors. These factors may be related to concepts such as Darwin’s survival of the fittest, where aggression is an innate trait that is deemed critically necessary. In this regard, there are links to the biological approach which also places strong emphasis on explaining human behaviour through genetic make-up, whist evolutionary arguments focus on the importance of passing on genes through biological inheritance to ensure the continuation of a species.

So, with evolutionary approaches supporting the nature viewpoint in the debate of nature versus nurture, the study of ethology may provide some relevance. Alongside, fear, hunger and the need for reproduction, Lorenz considers that aggression is critical to ensure selection of the best mates for reproduction, to guarantee survival of the young and to distribute a species in a balanced way. Here aggression is defined as the intent to harm and must occur within the same species. Whilst it is simple to discount ethology as ungeneralisable to human behaviour, there appear to be plausible comparisons.

Notably, animals often avoid actual aggression, as this risks injury (which would affect the ability to hunt, protect and defend) and could be fatal. Lorenz formulated the term ritualised aggression where the majority of perceived aggressive behaviour is posturing and display, rather than direct physical contact. Supported historically by Craig (1921) who observed little harm between stags during the rutting period, and Morris (1990) who stated that animals in general show incredible restraint to avoid aggression, this suggests that aggression may often be psychological and emotional rather than physical in an evolutionary context.

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Today, even in civilised societies where there appears to be no survival requirement for it, ritualised aggression is highly evident in humans, often reflected in verbal and posturing behaviours without actual physical contact. Supporting the notion of determinism, the evolutionary approach considers the need for survival as a powerful instinct within humans, pre-disposing us to aggress even if the biological requirement has been removed. This threatens the notion of freewill in our actions and may provide one explanation for the high incidence of aggressive behaviour within and across cultures, whether ritualised or not.

A significant issue with this viewpoint is ...

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