Discuss evolutionary explanations of group display in humans, e.g. sport and warfare. (8 marks + 16 marks)

You should outline and evaluate relevant explanations, such as xenophobia and territoriality in sports, and mate competition and group commitment in warfare. Sports and warfare are only suggestions though; other explanations can also be used. Make sure you emphasise the 'evolutionary' part in your answer.

Xenophobia is often present in sports events, with racist  chants and signals often exhibited in the crowds of football matches. Many psychologists believe that natural selection has favoured the genes which cause humans to be altruistic towards members of their own group but intolerant towards outsiders. This may be because it would have prompted our ancestors to be suspicious towards strangers, helping them to avoid attack.

Another explanation for the evolution of group displays in sport is based on territoriality, the protective response to an invasion of one's territory. Studies have revealed that sports players feel a greater burden in matches when 'defending the home territory', and some teams use aggressive displays to intimidate their opponents. Such displays may have been adaptive for our ancestors because they allowed groups to defend valuable resources associated with their territory.

Foldesi has provided evidence to support the link between xenophobia and violent displays among Hungarian football crowds. He found that the racist conduct of a core of extremist supporters led to an increase in spectators' violence in general.

There are real-world applications of research into the link between sports and xenophobia. Many football teams have taken step to minimise xenophobia within sports. Some football teams have also made contributions to local ethnic communities and have donated to anti-racism charities.

The 'home advantage' in sports events is thought to be due to territoriality: players are more determined not to lose in their own territory than in another team's. However, football fans have rated crowd support as the most significant factor contributing to a home advantage. This idea has been disputed, as studies have found that a larger crowd does not give the team an advantage. This supports the evolutionary notion that the home advantage is due to territoriality.

This has been supported by further research. One study analysed the results of several professional basketball matches performed with crowds and without crowds (due to a measles epidemic). They found that the absence of home crowds actually increased performance of the teams. This suggests that the home advantage is not due to crowd support, and so is likely due to territoriality, supporting the evolutionary view.

Warfare is another aggressive display that may be explained in terms of evolution. In societies that experience frequent warfare, males are more likely than females to escape infanticide due to their potential usefulness in battle. As a result, there are more women than there are men. Men must compete with each other for mates, and those who do well in battle gain access to female mate. This because displays of aggressiveness and bravery are attractive to females.

Another evolutionary explanation for warfare is that it promotes group solidarity. The costliness of permanent displays such as scars and mutilation serve as signals of commitment to the group. These permanent displays also minimise the ability of males to defect to another group, again increasing their commitment to the group of which they are a member.

Research has supported the importance of aggressive displays in determining the sexual attractiveness of male warriors. Leunissen found that military men have greater sex appeal, but only if they have been observed showing bravery in combat.

Some psychologists believe that aggressive displays are not due to biological compulsions but are due to environmental changes. War emerged when humans shifted from a nomadic existence to a settled one where they were tied to agriculture or fishing sites. Because of this, people had to fight in order to protect these sites. So rather than being an evolutionary adaptation, warfare may have emerged as a rational response to a changing lifestyle.

Explanations of warfare that are based on mating success or commitment fail to explain the extreme levels of cruelty that are often found in human wars yet not among non-human species. Evolutionary psychologists struggle to explain why humans torture or mutilate their opponents when they no longer pose a threat. This may be more a consequence of deindividuation than of evolutionary adaptation.

Evolutionary explanations of warfare struggle to explain the role of women. Women have often played a very important role in warfare. For example, the Dahomey Amazons were an all-female army who conquered much of North-West Africa between the 17th and 19th centuries. However, evolutionary explanations struggle to explain this, as women would have considerably less to gain from fighting, and more to lose (in terms of their reproductive capacity). Our understanding of displays of warfare is largely limited to males.


  1. I would like to correct something....on the warfare paragraph it should have said "As a result, there are more men than there are women" instead of "As a result, there are more men than there are women"

  2. Sorry I was meant to say that it should say that "As a result, there are more women than there are men" @CHAZZA HORAN

  3. nishat bruv you know that wont get you an extra mark fam
    you know the essays banging and yet your tryna correct it
    allow it

    1. init bruv who does he think he is, should allow it tbf

  4. That's incorrect because due to infanticide there would be more men than women left as mostly females are killed at birth than males due to males having potential to help in battle.

  5. There's not much a02/3 here, how many marks would this have been?

    1. bruv
      A03 doesnt even exist
      they call it Ao3
      but everything is A02


    2. kmt bruv shutup, your pissing man off bare today

  6. This essay has no credited research evidence so won't score well for accurate and detailed.

  7. This essay would struggle to exceed 16 marks since even though it is accurate. It fails to use named evidence. As a result, despite the time needed to complete such an essay the vague nature limits its ability to score highly

  8. This essay would struggle to exceed 16 marks since even though it is accurate. It fails to use named evidence. As a result, despite the time needed to complete such an essay the vague nature limits its ability to score highly

    1. Well youre a silly sausage aren't you! You dont need NAMED evidence to achieve 8 + 24, oh dear.

      Great essay by the way hope you did well at A levels!