Aggression and Peacefulness in Humans and Other Primates by James Silverberg, J. Patrick Gray

By James Silverberg, J. Patrick Gray

This booklet explores the position of aggression in primate social platforms and its implications for human habit.

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De Waal's results suggest that older relatives use mild violence to teach their younger relatives "rules of conduct," rules of behavior that must be learned if the younger animals are to mature socially. This use of what de Waal labels "constructive aggression" may benefit the younger animal later in life by saving it from making social blunders in situations with potential for serious aggression. Nonviolent Tactics Moving from the pro-social effects of violence to our sixth topic, the analysis of how nonagonistic social tactics influence dominance relationships, we again find little research confronting major theoretical and methodological problems.

Thus, many terms help to identify different acts as score points along a violence scale. This scale ranges in its peaceful sector from anti-violent behavior, notably affiliative acts and perhaps conciliatory acts, through nonviolent behavior such as withdrawal, retreat, deference, submission, displacement, supplant, and on toward the violent behavior sector of the scale with acts such as threat displays, lunges, chases, and outright violence. We have identified terms that bespeak of a behavioral style, which in general is measured as the frequency with which any actor is the initiator of agonistic activity.

We advocate the revival of "polygamy" with the same goal of precision; we do not wish to see it resuscitated as a residual term to justify carelessness or vagueness, nor to disguise indecision (for a more detailed review of efforts to define and explain primate mating systems, see also Gray 1985:65-75). DOMINANCE RELATIONS AND AGONISTIC ACTIVITY The ideas of dominance and aggression are linked intimately in the minds of most people. A popular misconception depicts agonistic behavior as the main pathway to position in a population's dominance hierarchy.

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