Looking for a name (bit off topic perhaps)

From: Keith Henson (hkhenson@rogers.com)
Date: Sun Mar 07 2004 - 09:22:53 MST

Stockholm Syndrome, more descriptively capture-bonding, is a conditionally
switched on evolved psychological trait humans have. See
http://www.human-nature.com/nibbs/02/cults.html for discussion re this
trait and the attention-reward mechanism (awkward terms, I know).

I need suggestions for what to call the psychological mechanism(s) that
induce humans (and chimps) into making organized war on other groups either
as a result of being attacked or due to xenophobic memes amplified by
privation/looming privation. Shorter terms based on Greek or Latin roots
for war or war gods would probably be better.

I am not far from having the first draft of this article done. If any are
interested in reviewing the draft, send me a note.

Keith Henson


Evolutionary Psychology, Memes, The Origin of War, and Empowering Women
(Tentative title)

By H. Keith Henson


Our ancestors always lived close to their ecological limit, an unstable
upper bound for how many hominids (or lions or tigers or bears) an
environment can support. When reproduction pushes populations over the
limit or the limit fluctuates down because conditions vary, part of the
population will die, typically by starvation. Humans have evolved a
psychological response to looming starvation; a mechanism that induced
tribes to make war on nearby tribes. The psychological response increases
the circulation of xenophobic memes among groups facing
privation. Xenophobic memes break down the normal reluctance of humans to
attacking other humans and synchronize warriors of one tribe to attack
another. Genes inducing suicidal behavior in the (male) members of a weak
tribe attacking a strong tribe had a selective advantage because the losing
tribe's young females (carriers of those genes) were usually incorporated
into the winning tribe. From a gene's perspective this was better than
starvation. In war situations self-preserving (rational) behavior has not
been favored by selection. I.e., "stupid" decisions should be expected.

Being attacked turns on a related psychological response, rapidly inducing
xenophobia and a fighting response even in groups not facing starvation.

With appropriate mapping (looming starvation/privation into expected or
actual declining income per capita) this evolved psychological mechanism
accounts for the origin of most (if not all) historical wars. While war
was adaptive for hunter-gatherer level societies, war is poorly adapted for
human societies above that level.

Inherent in this model is a prescription for avoiding wars: keep income per
capita rising or at least not falling for *all* human groups. Population
growth itself does not lead to wars, but population growth in excess of
economic growth does. Empowering women to limit births to a level below
economic growth appears to be a key to avoiding wars or ending long running

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