Male Aggression and Violence in Human Evolution

Event Dates: 
May 16, 2014 -
1:00pm to 5:30pm

In the last few decades, new sources of evidence have continued to indicate that male violence has played an important role in shaping behavior in the human lineage.  The frequency and nature of such violence varies widely among populations and over time raises questions about the factors responsible for the variation. In the past, much controversy and even some acrimonious debate has occurred over the question of whether humans lived in a state of ancestral peace. The aim of this symposium is to set aside such theories and debates and take a fresh look at the causes and consequences of variation in aggression, both between and within species.  The focus will be on speakers who can critically examine and represent the available evidence from multiple sources, including comparative ethology, ethnology, archaeology, political science, and evolutionary neuroscience.  While the symposium may not come to any definitive conclusions, it should allow for the best interpretation of the current evidence, and help suggest research agendas for the future.

Event Sessions

Media for each talk can be played by clicking on icons in the "Media" column, or by clicking on the individual talk titles below and then the attachment file at the bottom of the page.

Date Media Session Title Speakers Abstract Location
Fri 5/16 File Warfare and Feuding in Pleistocene Societies Christopher Boehm

Today’s hunter-gatherers are used to portray likely patterns of male aggression among culturally-modern foragers in the Late Pleistocene epoch. Patterns of aggressive behavior are considered at... more

Salk Institute - Conrad T. Prebys Auditorium
Fri 5/16 File Intergroup Violence: Chimpanzees and Lions Anne Pusey

Some mammals live in permanent social groups that occupy and aggressively defend the same area for generations. Like many mammals, female lions generally remain for life in their natal pride.... more

Salk Institute - Conrad T. Prebys Auditorium
Fri 5/16 File Neuroendocrine Mechanisms Underlying Male Aggression Donald Pfaff

In free-living animals, aggressive behaviors by males often serve to maintain resources the male will need to attract and protect females. In many human cultures, the frequency of murders of males... more

Salk Institute - Conrad T. Prebys Auditorium
Fri 5/16 File Bioarchaeological Perspectives on Male Violence in Prehistory Patricia Lambert

This talk examines the bioarchaeological evidence for violence and warfare in ancient California. Violent injuries in human skeletal remains provide one of the most compelling lines of evidence... more

Salk Institute - Conrad T. Prebys Auditorium
Fri 5/16 File Male Violence Among Ache´ and Hiwi Hunter-Gatherers Kim Hill

In order to understand how warfare and violence have shaped the natural history of our species, and perhaps favored adaptations that respond to this important life threat, we need to document what... more

Salk Institute - Conrad T. Prebys Auditorium
Fri 5/16 File Resource Unpredictability, Socialization and War Carol Ember

Until we understand the conditions that increase or decrease the likelihood of conflict, it is difficult to imagine how we would create a more peaceful world that many yearn for. The research I... more

Salk Institute - Conrad T. Prebys Auditorium
Fri 5/16 File Violence: What's Culture Got to Do with It? Polly Wiessner

All humans have the capacity for aggression and reconciliation. However, it is cultural institutions that harness aggression by shaping cognition, corresponding emotions and defining appropriate... more

Salk Institute - Conrad T. Prebys Auditorium
Fri 5/16 File The Parallel Evolution of Humanity and Savagery Richard Wrangham

Human male violence is paradoxical. On the one hand within social groups there is a strong tendency for avoidance of direct conflicts such that confrontations between angry individuals or groups... more

Salk Institute - Conrad T. Prebys Auditorium
Fri 5/16 File Do Hunter-Gatherers Tell Us About Human Nature? Robert Kelly

When many people want to discover the core of human nature, they turn to those people who allegedly are or represent humanity’s original condition, hunter-gatherers. Do hunter-gatherers have a... more

Salk Institute - Conrad T. Prebys Auditorium