Examine Group Display Explanations for Aggression

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Evolutionary Group Displays of Aggression

Evolutionary approaches are based on adaptive value of group display including sports and xenophobia, lynch mobs and religion.

Natural selection, favours genes that cause individual group members to be cooperative with other group members but are intolerant towards individuals who are not members of that group (Xenophobia). In particular xenophobia (suspicion of strangers) has been displayed in sports. McDonald suggests that it would be adaptive to exaggerate negative stereotypes of outsiders as there could be a potential threat to the group’s resources like food, territory and mate selection. Therefore, being aggressive to strangers of potential threat is seen to be an evolutionary advantage.

Knowledge of xenophobia has led to real world application to minimise discrimination throughout football. For example, Scottish football have banned all singing of IRA songs leading to an overall decrease in racism consequently reducing aggression which means the approach must be real if procedures have been in place to stop this negative behaviour.

Supporting research by Podalri and Balestri found that racism was seen particularly openly and strongly among football crowds. Xenophobia increased the cultural identity of supporters by highlighting the differences between Northern and Southern Italians.  

Similarly, supporting research by Evans and Rowe found xenophobia in games involving the national side was more evident than those involving the club side. They concluded that club sides tend to be more diverse which means they will be less likely to produce xenophobic behaviour to foreign supporters.

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Foldesi’s research supports the concept of xenophobia. Foldesi (1996) found that violent displays among a small core of Hungarian football crowds led to an increase in violent and racist outbursts by spectators.

However, conflicting research by Marsh suggests football violence may not be an act of naturally selected xenophobia, but more an organised behaviour to gain peer acceptance within the group.

Another limitation of sport studies is it only accounts for aggressive behaviour at sports events and doesn’t explain aggressive behaviour elsewhere.

However, research into religious rituals provides an alternative explanation. Aggressive behaviour can be self-inflicted, for example ...

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