Monday, October 4, 2010

Universal Motives: The Evolved Function of Anger

Universal motives are present in all societies around the world. In Chapter 3 of our book we learned about evolution and motivation. Brown (1991) made a list of traits that are categorized together for their relevance to universal motives. Anger, for example is a characteristic of the universal motive, emotion. Anger is a powerful and prevalent emotion motive across all cultures. It occurs in infants and is part of the basic drives of the human species. Emotional behaviors can be motivated by the presence of anger, fear, disgust, sadness, and happiness along with their accompanying facial expressions.

I read an article called Formidability and the logic of human anger by Aaron Sell, Leda Cosmides, and John Tooby, in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, September 2009. This article addressed why anger exists and the evolutionary function it has as an emotion. This article suggests a recent model -the recalibrational theory of anger-which states that the regulatory program governing anger evolved in the service of bargaining to resolve conflicts of interest in favor of the angry individual. This model predicts individuals which abilities to inflict cost (strength) or to confer benefits (attractiveness) translate into more leverage in bargaining over conflicts of interest.

Throughout evolution a man’s strength was the best indicator of his ability to fight and inflict costs on others by injuring or killing them. Women’s attractiveness reflects health, fertility, and offspring fitness and the more attractive a woman the more valuable the granting of sexual access is to constitute a powerful a benefit. Attractive people have more mating value, are viewed favorably, and have more weight placed on their welfare. The results of this study support the hypothesis that anger is important in the resolution of conflict in the favor of the angry individual, with the stronger male and more attractive female being more prone to anger and better able to inflict costs and bargain.

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