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U of Minnesota researcher finds link between aggression, status and sex
Date:12/8/2008

Have you ever wondered why it seems like the littlest things make people angry? Why a glance at the wrong person or a spilled glass of water can lead to a fist fight or worse? University of Minnesota researcher Vladas Griskevicius has three words to explain why people may be evolutionarily inclined to make a mountain out of molehill: aggression, status and sex.

Although hostility or belligerent acts might not immediately appear to be linked to reproduction, new research forthcoming in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology shows that mating goals may underlie behaviors such as aggression. Griskevicius, a marketing professor at the U of M's Carlson School of Management, and his co-authors, have found conclusive evidence that merely activating a desire for status can trigger aggression. Aggressive displays, which may result in enhanced status, indirectly boost an individual's ability to attract a mate and, thereby, reproduce.

"It all boils down to the fact that status for men typically equals sex. Across different cultures and time, the higher status men have, the more sex or better-quality partners they may have," said Griskevicius. "At the gene-level, nobody wants to go down in an evolutionary blaze of glory--no one wants their genes to become extinct. Additionally, unlike low-status women, low-status men are in serious danger of not reproducing, since they make especially undesirable mates."

To listen to Griskevicius describe his research, go to http://mediamill.cla.umn.edu/mediamill/embed/22978

"Think of it this way," said Griskevicius, "For men, fighting for status is akin to fighting for the survival of their genes. Not caring about status, which can be implied by backing away from a fight, can be evolutionary suicide. Aggression can lead to status. A higher status leads to sex, and that leads to more or higher-quality offspring."

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Contact: Ryan Mathre
mathre@umn.edu
612-625-0552
University of Minnesota
Source:Eurekalert

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