Given the high costs of aggression, why have people evolved to act aggressively? Comparative biologists have frequently observed links between aggression, status, and mating in nonhuman animals. In this series of experiments, the authors examined the effects of status, competition, and mating motives on men's and women's aggression. For men, status motives increased direct aggression (face-to-face confrontation). Men's aggression was also boosted by mating motives, but only when observers were other men. For women, both status and mating motives increased indirect aggression (e.g., socially excluding the perpetrator). Although neither status nor mating motives increased women's direct aggression, women did become more directly aggressive when motivated to compete for scarce resources. These context- and sex-specific effects on human aggression contribute to a broader understanding of the functional nature of aggressive behavior.
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