Status, sex prime for aggression

Several months ago, what police believe began as an altercation at a nightclub led an individual to shoot a Jacksonville Jaguar offensive lineman 14 times, leaving him paralyzed. ItâÄôs hard to deny the senselessness of such violence, but recent University of Minnesota research indicates that such behavior could indeed make evolutionary sense. University assistant marketing professor Vladas Griskevicius described results of a study to be published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology that found when men have status and sex on their minds, theyâÄôre more likely to respond aggressively âÄî with face-to-face confrontation âÄî to a trivial slight. Such a connection has been proposed in the past, but this is the first demonstration that status and reproductive goals can actually cause increased aggression in the face of a small insult, Griskevicius said. The study established the causal relationship by âÄúactivatingâÄù either status or sex-related goals with a short story about either competing for a promotion or courting someone of the opposite sex. Then subjects were asked to indicate how they would respond to a trivial insult of being carelessly spilled on with no apology. The study also found women with status and sex on the mind were more likely to aggress in response to a small slight, but that aggression took non-confrontational forms, like social exclusion. Researchers also found that context matters. In the company of women, men with sex on the mind withheld aggression âÄî but not if surrounded by men. Brad Bushman , a University of Michigan professor, said the connection between status and aggression seems consistent with his own research on narcissism and aggression. Status plays a role in narcissism. Narcissists think theyâÄôre high-power, high-status people, âÄúand when people tell them theyâÄôre not so great, they become angry and aggressive,âÄù Bushman said. Griskevicius said he thinks âÄúactivatingâÄù status and sex for men essentially triggers the same response because they are so closely related. Across different cultures, the higher a manâÄôs status, Griskevicius said, the more sexual partners heâÄôs likely to get. This study strengthened the link between aggression and reproduction by demonstrating that aggression can be motivated by the middleman: status. Griskevicius emphasized the study isnâÄôt trying to say that women find aggression attractive âÄî instead, theyâÄôre attracted to the status. Even though women may not want to go to a boxing match or football game to see the violent behavior, âÄúthey will often know who the winners are,âÄù he said.