The evolutionary psychology of war

Nothing too shocking here for students of evolutionary psychology but it’s always interesting to see real world examples of how our shared behavior. There is a new book by Sebastian Junger called War, in which he recounts how men do not fight for larger ideological goals (eg. “a safer Iraq”, “finding Bin Laden”) but instead they can overcome fears because “they’re more concerned about their brothers than what happens to themselves individually”. Here’s Junger on Good Morning America:
http://abcnews.go.com/assets/player/walt2.6/flash/SFP_Walt.swf

After the jump some more from Junger and a nice talk from Robert Sapolsky about similar behaviors in chimps.

Another example from soldiers in Afghanistan is the “blood-in, blood-out” ritual for increasing group cohesiveness and testing individual sacrifice for the group, as Junger describes near the end of this Daily Show clip:

The Daily Show With Jon Stewart Mon – Thurs 11p / 10c
Sebastian Junger
www.thedailyshow.com
http://media.mtvnservices.com/mgid:cms:item:comedycentral.com:309141
Daily Show Full Episodes Political Humor Tea Party

All of these explanations and rituals reminded me of Robert Sapolsky’s and Frans de Waal’s observations of similar behavior that is reported in baboon/chimp groups.

In the clip below (from Stanford’s Class Day 2009 speech), Sapolsky describes several “uniquely human” behaviors (or at least ones that had been thought to be “uniquely human”) which really are shared by these close relatives. Starting around 12:20 (the clip below will auto-start there), he talks about aggression and the organized group killing done by “border patrols”. The entire talk by Sapolsky (~35 mins) is worth watching too!

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