Evolution of Aggression on Human

“It is essential that we not base our image of ourselves on false foundations. What is involved here is not simply the understanding of the nature of humanity, but also the image of humanity that grows out of that understanding.” – Ashley Montagu (Anthropologist).

enter image description here

Last night I googled “how many wars have been fought on earth from the beginning of human civilization?” True to say I was not expecting any specific answer. I would be happy I got any probable number. The first link appeared on google screen was a question asked on Quora. There more than one person replied the question politely and logically that the answer is not to be found. Today I am not here to discuss the reason and consequences of war on human civilization. I will try to focus on Aggression and its evolutionary perspective. “Why evolution made this mental state happen?” I will seek the answer to this question. Now we live in a society which we may call Delayed Return Environment. We don’t get the result of our actions immediately. Suppose a person is thinking to invest on share market or any other business institutions, will s/he get the profit immediately? Certainly not. Except us, every animal on this earth lives a Immediate Return Environment. Unlike ours, animals live in a society where everything is the outcome of an immediate action. Suppose yourself as an animal of wild are. For you -

  • When you are hungry, you walk over and munch on a tree.
  • When a storm rolls across the plains, you take shelter under the brush.
  • When you spot a lion stalking you and your friends, you run away.

You live in a society where your actions have certain outcomes. Our surroundings make us anxious. To understand the above-mentioned phenomenon, read this article from huffingtonpost.com. And most of the time anxiety leads to Aggression. But here wouldn’t dare to discuss on this very topic either.

Keeping the war issue completely aside, we see many examples of aggression on our nature as the human being. Violence also makes us human. If we see our past history, what do we found? Most of the time Humans were peaceful. Many will say, there is tremendous evidence that only through cooperation we Humans have come this far. This does not prove we are the pacifist and nonviolent. Previously I discussed we live in a competitive society. This makes us aggressive. To understand this phenomenon of social behavior of being aggressive and being egalitarian, we should ask “ why do we use aggression?”

Before answering the question let’s try to know what aggression actually is? When I googled “define Aggression” results -

  • hostile or violent behavior or attitudes toward another; readiness to attack or confront.
  • the action of attacking without provocation, especially in beginning a quarrel or war.
  • forceful and sometimes overly assertive pursuit of one's aims and interests.

If you google aggression from a psychological perspective, you’ll get the most appropriate answer. “Aggression is behavior whose intent is to harm another. More specifically, aggression is defined as "any sequence of behavior, the goal response to which is the injury of the person toward whom it is directed." You may notice that this definition, even on the surface, poses a conceptual challenge: How do we know the intent of the actor?”1 People often get confused thinking predators as aggressive species. Lions, Tigers hunt to satisfy hunger. They sometimes fight among the same species. It’s mostly during reproduction cycle to gain the authority of females. The later one is the example of aggression but the previous one is certainly not. It’s just being violent. Violence is being hostile to other species. Here we’ll think of attitude towards same species while we’ll mention Aggression. Konrad Lorenz defines aggression as "the fighting instinct in beast and man which is directed against members of the same species." I think that enough for our discussion here.

Now let’s go for the main question to be answered. Konrad Lorenz researched about animal behavior for a very long time. His work made the scientific study of animal behavior as a branch of science. Which is known as “Ethology”. Animals could share what resource they have to satisfy their necessity. Then why to become aggressive? He on his book “On Aggression” published on 1963 and later in English on 1966 brings Darwin’s “Struggle for existence” to relate this phenomenon. He studied mainly different species of fish to understand aggression. He tried to find out why some species of fish are extremely territorial. Even they become too aggressive to protect the territory even from their own species. Aggression comes in many forms- for sex, to protect young from the violence of the elder to create a less competitive society, for territory and so on. These all helps any specific species to create a balance of the number in a certain region. This also paves the way of having strong gene bearing youngsters and creates more probable adulthood for them. Thus being aggressive helps species to protect themselves by being hostile to other groups of the same species. This also helps species to be more adaptive to the preferable environment.

It's like being helpful by not being helpful. A tiny group of people got out of people came out of Africa and populated the whole world. And aggression has lead us here from there. You may ask why? Yuval Noah Harari on his book “Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind” wrote about historical and probable events which lead us here. There are few animals which can form groups and maintain it. Humans invented some immaterial concepts like leadership, family, village, country, empire and so on. This is the outcome of distribution of labor throughout the society. And aggression created a race to be best in it. That’s why we had come this far. We are helping us by not helping us.


Shah Shajedur Rahman

Chemical Engineer || Freelance Writer at Upwork & Fiverr || Keen Learner of Evolution, Philosophy, History || Love Cycling, Hiking, Visiting, Reading, Writing