Male-Warrior Hypothesis

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Rob Henderson:

"The male-warrior hypothesis has two components:

  • Within a same-sex human peer group, conflict between individuals is equally prevalent for both sexes, with overt physical conflict more common among males
  • Males are more likely to reduce conflict within their group if they find themselves competing against an outgroup

The idea is that, compared with all-female groups, all-male groups will (on average) display an equal or greater amount of aggression and hostility toward one another. But when they are up against another group in a competitive situation, cooperation increases within male groups and remains the same among female groups.

Rivalries with other human groups in the ancestral environment in competition for resources and reproductive partners shaped human psychology to make distinctions between us and them. Mathematical modeling of human evolution suggests that human cooperation is a consequence of competition.

Humans who did not make this distinction—those who were unwilling to support their group to prevail against other groups—did not survive. We are the descendants of good team players.

It used to be accepted as a given that males were more aggressive toward one another than females. This is because researchers often used measures of overt aggression. For instance, researchers would observe kids at a playground and record the number of physical altercations that occurred and compare how they differed by sex. Unsurprisingly, boys push each other around and get into fights more than girls.

But when researchers expanded their definition of aggression to include verbal aggression and indirect aggression (rumor spreading, gossiping, ostracism, and friendship termination) they found that girls score higher on indirect aggression and no sex differences in verbal aggression.

The most common reasons people give for their most recent act of aggression are threats to social status and reputational concerns."