From hitting to tattling to gossip: An evolutionary rationale for the development of indirect aggression

Ingram, Dr Gordon P. D. (2013) From hitting to tattling to gossip: An evolutionary rationale for the development of indirect aggression. [Preprint]

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Adult humans are characterized by low rates of intra-group physical aggression, relative to both human children and non-human animals. I propose that the suppression of physically aggressive tendencies has been achieved partly through the replacement of dominance hierarchies by prestige hierarchies, driven by indirect reciprocity and mediated by indirectly aggressive competition and linguistic transmission of reputations. Reviewing the developmental literature on indirect aggression and related constructs provides three pieces of evidence that evolutionarily old impulses towards physical aggression are gradually socialized into indirect aggression: (i) physical aggression falls in early childhood over the same age range during which indirect aggression increases; (ii) the same individuals engage in both physical and indirect aggression; and (iii) dominant individuals practice indirect aggression more frequently. Consideration of the developmental course of indirect aggression is complemented by analysis of similar developments in verbal behaviors that are not necessarily aggressive, namely tattling and gossip. Two developmental transitions in indirect aggression and related behaviors are postulated. The first occurs in early childhood as children become aware of norms against physical aggression. The second occurs in preadolescence with the development of increasingly covert forms of reputational competition, as children try to renegotiate their status within peer social networks.

Item Type:Preprint
Additional Information:Manuscript accepted for publication in Evolutionary Psychology, forthcoming special issue on Evolutionary Developmental Psychology
Keywords:dominance, evolution of cooperation, indirect reciprocity, language, prestige, reputation
Subjects:Psychology > Developmental Psychology
Psychology > Evolutionary Psychology
ID Code:8971
Deposited By: Ingram, Mr Gordon P. D.
Deposited On:04 May 2013 23:26
Last Modified:04 May 2013 23:26

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