Evolutionary psychologists see war as an extension of mating-related male aggression. They argue men compete for status and resources in an attempt to attract women and produce offspring, thus passing on their genes to another generation.
This competition takes many forms, including violent aggression against other males — an impulse frowned upon by modern society but one that can be channeled into acceptable behaviour when one joins the military.
Why would men with mating on their minds be more receptive to the idea of war? There’s a “mating-warring association” deep in the male brain Successful warriors have traditionally enjoyed greater access to women.
This instinctual force propels men to engage in organized lethal aggression by co-opting other human adaptations, including our unique cognitive and social mind. To put it more simply, our rational brains lose the internal battle to our instinctual selves.
If peacocks impress potential mates with colorful feathers, the researchers write, perhaps warriors attract women with their ribbons, badges and fancy dress uniforms. And men’s “swords and missiles” may be our answer to a stag’s horns: weapons that showcase one’s virility.
The impulse to fight may go deeper than the desire to defend one’s nation, religion or tribe. If their thesis is correct, the 1960s slogan “Make love, not war” may have to be revised. Love [the sexual kind] may have more in common with war than anyone imagined.
Aggression towards Outsiders
From football thugs clashing on the terraces to soldiers killing each other on the front line, most conflict can be blamed on the male sex drive.
A review of psychological research concludes that men evolved to be aggressive towards ‘outsiders’, a tendency at the root of inter-tribal violence.
It emerged through natural selection as a result of competition for mates, territory and status, and is seen in conflicts between nations as well as clashes involving rival gangs, football fans or religious groups, say the researchers.
In contrast, women evolved to resolve conflicts peacefully. They are said to have been programmed by natural selection to ‘tend and befriend’ to protect their children.
Findings support the ‘male warrior hypothesis’. sychologists claim that in all cultures and throughout history, men have sought to get their way by initiating violence.
They prefer group-based hierarchies and are identified more strongly with their own groups than women.
At a basic level, such ‘tribal’ aggression helped men in a group to obtain more females, increasing their chances of reproduction.
We see similar behaviour in chimpanzees. The males continuously monitor the borders of their territory. If a female from another group comes along, she may be persuaded to emigrate to his group. When a male strays too far, however, he is likely to be brutally beaten and possibly killed.