Aggression, risk-taking, and alternative life history strategies: The behavioral ecology of social deviance

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter

57 Scopus citations


We consider the major characteristics of what has been called social deviance, particularly in relation to aggressive behavior that may occasion harm to other members of society, and how social deviance and aggression relate to critical individual differences in reproductive life history strategy. We conclude that social deviance is not as pathological as traditionally supposed and propose a strategic, rather than hydraulic, model of aggressive motivation. We start by considering the role of intraspecific aggression within an overall adaptive strategy of survival and reproduction that may have an attendant effect of producing collateral harm to others, and then proceed to a theoretical analysis of risk-taking behavior as potentially producing harm to the self in certain environments. We then develop an integrative theory by which life history evolution will connect these two conceptualizations of social deviance into a unified framework involving the behavioral ecology of risk-taking behavior and the strategic implications of synchronies and asynchronies of the costs and benefits of risk-taking in relation to life history strategy. Central to this framework is the evidently enhanced executive functioning of slow life history strategists, and more specifically, a superior capacity for rule governance - the control of behavior through verbal statements rather than through the direct experience of specific environmental contingencies. Executive functions include abilities to plan, inhibit or delay responding, initiate behavior, and shift between activities flexibly. These abilities all involve rule governance, which permits individuals to respond adaptively in a variety of different contexts without requiring previous experience with every possible set of circumstances. The fundamental role of rule governance in social deviance, as mediated by executive functions, is discussed. Finally, we consider the implications of this unified framework for the evolution and development of convergent interests (mutualistic) and divergent interests (antagonistic) social strategies, which constitute the fundamental cognitive schemata underlying social deviance.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationBio-Psycho-Social Perspectives on Interpersonal Violence
PublisherNova Science Publishers, Inc.
Number of pages25
ISBN (Print)9781616681593
StatePublished - Feb 2011

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Medicine
  • General Social Sciences
  • General Psychology


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