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Making ‘my’ problem ‘our’ problem: Warfare as collective action, and the role of leader manipulation

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Abstract

Warfare is a collective action problem, and groups often stand to benefit from the quick and coordinated action that leaders can provide. This basic principle is as true in modern political contexts as it has been across our evolutionary history, and there is growing evidence that leadership has evolved, in part, to solve such collective action problems. Despite the material and reproductive benefits of leadership for groups, leaders may also seek private gains at the expense of group interests. Drawing upon insights from social and evolutionary psychology, I explain how leaders solve collective action problems in warfare, but also how leaders manipulate audience preferences when their own interests do not align with group interests. Specifically, when leaders anticipate great private gain from foreign aggression while facing steep public resistance at home, leaders will misframe the conflict as defensive rather than offensive in nature. I provide an evolutionary analysis that explains why leaders exploit this framing specifically, and I identify the specific aspects of conflict framing that are most likely to be exploited toward this end.

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... An implication of these findings is that political groups seeking to create change (versus those defending against it) benefit more from institutions such as leadership and communication channels that increase commitment and facilitate the coordination of collective action [42,99]. An interesting possibility awaiting future research is that a shared ideology, alongside strong leader rhetoric, can functionally serve within-group coordination and commitment during attempts to revise the political status quo [42,82,98,99], with implications for how splintering within social movements affects the likelihood they will succeed in affecting change. ...
... An implication of these findings is that political groups seeking to create change (versus those defending against it) benefit more from institutions such as leadership and communication channels that increase commitment and facilitate the coordination of collective action [42,99]. An interesting possibility awaiting future research is that a shared ideology, alongside strong leader rhetoric, can functionally serve within-group coordination and commitment during attempts to revise the political status quo [42,82,98,99], with implications for how splintering within social movements affects the likelihood they will succeed in affecting change. ...
Article
Political conflicts often revolve around changing versus defending a status quo . We propose to capture the dynamics between proponents and opponents of political change in terms of an asymmetric game of attack and defence with its equilibrium in mixed strategies. Formal analyses generate predictions about effort expended on revising and protecting the status quo , the form and function of false signalling and cheap talk, how power differences impact conflict intensity and the likelihood of status quo revision. Laboratory experiments on the neurocognitive and hormonal foundations of attack and defence reveal that out-of-equilibrium investments in attack emerge because of non-selfish preferences, limited capacity to compute costs and benefits and optimistic beliefs about the chances of winning from one's rival. We conclude with implications for the likelihood of political change and inertia, and discuss the role of ideology in political games of attack and defence. This article is part of the theme issue ‘The political brain: neurocognitive and computational mechanisms’.
... There are two primary ways that individuals could make motivations and actions appear less self-interested and selfish. The first involves the framing of the aggressive impulse as defensive rather than offensive (De Dreu & Gross, 2019;Lopez, 2017Lopez, , 2019Pietraszewski, 2016). The other rests on the diffusion of responsibility within a plurality of individuals (Sznycer et al., 2017). ...
... Scholars have advanced persuasive game theoretic models of the strategic choices, preference-rankings, and payoffs of defense-and offense-motivated aggression (De Dreu & Gross, 2019;Lopez, 2017;Pietraszewski, 2016). Offense likely generates nonpublic private goods, while defense, public goods (Durham, 1976;Lopez, 2017Lopez, , 2019Tooby & Cosmides, 1988). Indeed, successful offensive actions typically confer rewards to those who partake, such as access to resources, status increases via the elimination of competitors, and reproductive access (Glowacki & Wrangham, 2015. ...
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Our model of radicalization articulates three readings of the phenomenon: (1) the rationality of the radicalized agent, (2) the prime mover explaining important facets of the phenomena, and (3) the strategic typification of concerns for the persuasion of wider audiences. We show that the rationality of the radicalized agent can be characterized as the calibration of specific parameters that determines a modality of thought, the R.A.S.H. mentality, which accounts for essential aspects of the radicalized mind. We propose further to reorient the causal arrow that has been privileged in the models of radicalization so far by linking radicalization to the experience of envy, an evolved emotion that motivates individuals to monitor their surroundings, to assess the prosperity of others, and to seek the elimination of differences. We conclude with the process of typification, which consists in widening the reach of concerns by simultaneously eliminating the particulars of the personal situation motivating the radicalized agent and evoking collective circumstance templates belonging to a repertoire of universal social forms.
... What this means is that in general, to the extent that warfare can be thought of as collective action, there is a labour recruitment problem that is relatively more challenging in cases of offensive aggression than in defensive aggression (Lopez, 2019). Despite overwhelming evidence that competition between groups tends to enhance cooperation within them, this literature has tended not to distinguish between types of violence, such as offense and defence. ...
... For example, within-group punishment of non-participants may be more useful and salient in defence than in offense (Lopez, 2017), particularly owing to defence being more of a "true" public good than offense (Tooby and Cosmides, 1988;Price, Cosmides and Tooby, 2002), while individual prospective rewards such as status and honour seem to be especially useful for incentivising participation in high-risk offensive raids (Glowacki and Wrangham, 2013b). The asymmetric game theoretic structure of these two types of aggression also suggests that within-group leader deception plays a larger role in offensive rather than in defensive aggression (Gagnon, 1994;McDermott, 2018;Lopez, 2019). In short, defence unites and offense divides. ...
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Introduction: The evolution and history of warfare has been investigated by philosophers, historians, practitioners, social scientists and life scientists. Common questions in this endeavour are: How far back into human evolution and history do we find evidence of warfare? How frequent was warfare in any given historical period? How lethal was warfare? In short, scholarship on the evolution and history of warfare has focused on questions of origins, frequency, and intensity. Despite the fact that scientific interest in these questions is perhaps broader and more methodologically sophisticated than ever, consensus on these questions remains elusive for at least two reasons. First, the archaeological record of warfare is incomplete. Second, we do not agree on what warfare is or how to unambiguously distinguish it from other forms of violence. Beyond an agreement that warfare is something more than violence between two individuals, there is little consensus on the proper scope of our main unit of analysis. Given these hurdles, it would seem that an investigation into the evolutionary origins of human warfare is destined merely to perpetuate academic stalemates, in which old arguments are continuously repackaged with each new discovery of a mass grave or 'peaceful' society. Although this is a rather pessimistic view, I establish it at the forefront of this chapter since my argument will be that these hurdles (e.g. knowledge of ancestral phenomena and consensus on definitions) are not insurmountable. Entire disciplines thrive on their ability to successfully infer and model the unobserved past based on imperfect historical, geological and archaeological evidence. And the question of definitions must be placed in its proper scope-as a methodological, rather than ontological, consideration. One of the core dynamics of the evolutionary process is natural selection, which is the only force known to organise biological design-that is; natural selection builds adaptations. Given that biological adaptations are solutions to recurrent and reproductively significant problems in an organism's environment, these adaptations themselves convey some information about the environment in which they evolved. In other words, the form and function of adaptations contains information about the (socio)ecology in which they were built. Therefore, if there is an argument to be made about the ancestral frequency and intensity of warfare, we should expect that the form and function of our evolved psychology should reflect the ancestral existence of such challenges. This is a way of saying that if warfare was evolutionarily recurrent and reproductively significant for our ancestors, evidence of this fact lies in our very brains.
... Studies of modern information-psychological wars (IPW) are actively carried out in domestic and foreign linguistics. European scholars, studying the manipulation of public consciousness as part of the technology of IPW, pay attention to the importance of identifying the participants of IPW, which can be individual political leaders or entire groups (Lopez, 2020). It has been noted that IPW participants can rely on the axiological, ideological, or social attitudes of the target audience, actively influencing the emotions of the information consumer (McDermott, 2020). ...
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The paper deals with the urgent and topical issue of political linguistics - the influence of information and psychological warfare on the Russian language. The aim of the paper is to describe the most frequent novices in the modern Russian language and speech which occur due to the domestic information and psychological warfare. The research was carried out on the basis of the mass-media texts, the traditional linguistic research methods were used (analysis and description, contextual and axiological analysis, etc.). As the result of the analysis the authors singled out both new and traditional words and word combinations which simultaneously serve as the weapon and the result of information and psychological warfare. Two groups of language (speech) means were defined: specialized (which perform the relevant evaluative function - either positive or negative) and non-specialized (which change the function depending on the context, the semantic ambivalent words and word combinations). The specialized means include pejorative words and word combinations: political labels, invectives, terribilitisms (bogey-words), delusions (trap-words), negatively connotative words, and euphemisms. Ameliorative means are not characteristic of information and psychological warfare, though words and word combinations are widely used which denote national concepts being the subject of information rivalry. Neutral language means in information and psychological warfare in the Russian language include terms and terminoids, naming various types of rivalries and technologies constituting them. The results obtained contribute to the development of the information and psychological warfare linguistics. Research perspectives encompass the refinement of some points and the analysis of information and psychological warfare language consequences in the light of linguistic ecology.
... Not just to redress inequality in leadership access, but also because organizational goals can suffer when competitive ("toxic") masculinity dominates an organizations' culture (Berdahl et al., 2018). We can also call attention to implicit preferences regarding leaders' physical formidability and dominance (Blaker et al., 2013), and the ways in which the media and politicians stoke fear of out-groups (Lopez, 2020) to draw out these preferences. Studies with WEIRD participants find male leaders are preferred during war whereas preferences for female leaders increase during times of peace (Van Vugt et al., 2007;Grabo and van Vugt, 2018;de Waal-Andrews and van Vugt, 2020). ...
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Social influence is distributed unequally between males and females in many mammalian societies. In human societies, gender inequality is particularly evident in access to leadership positions. Understanding why women historically and cross-culturally have tended to be under-represented as leaders within human groups and organizations represents a paradox because we lack evidence that women leaders consistently perform worse than men. We also know that women exercise overt influence in collective group-decisions within small-scale human societies, and that female leadership is pervasive in particular contexts across non-human mammalian societies. Here, we offer a transdisciplinary perspective on this female leadership paradox. Synthesis of social science and biological literatures suggests that females and males, on average, differ in why and how they compete for access to political leadership in mixed-gender groups. These differences are influenced by sexual selection and are moderated by socioecological variation across development and, particularly in human societies, by culturally transmitted norms and institutions. The interplay of these forces contributes to the emergence of female leaders within and across species. Furthermore, females may regularly exercise influence on group decisions in less conspicuous ways and different domains than males, and these underappreciated forms of leadership require more study. We offer a comprehensive framework for studying inequality between females and males in access to leadership positions, and we discuss the implications of this approach for understanding the female leadership paradox and for redressing gender inequality in leadership in humans.
... However, as we have argued above, using the evolutionary process to produce a variety of outcomes and then picking the best one is a good compromise. Moreover, an evolutionary understanding of people and complex systems suggests that by focusing on basic, evolved human processes -such as face-to-face communication -we can be effective in solving, through cooperation and collective action, what initially appear to be intractable social dilemmas (Lopez, 2019;Ostrom, 1998). ...
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We examine core assumptions of I/O and evolutionary psychology—assumptions about human nature, social and organizational systems, and methods for predicting and changing human behavior in organizations. We then review research and theory that integrates ideas from evolutionary psychology into areas of I/O psychology—including organizational design and change, leadership, decision-making, family businesses, women and work, workplace design and well-being, sustainability, and diversity. We also examine some of the possible reasons why I/O psychology (and management more broadly) have been less fertile ground for evolutionary psychology compared with other areas of psychology and the social sciences. We conclude with areas for future directions—where we see evolutionary psychology making an impact, the need for evolutionary psychology to make a greater contribution to I/O psychology, and strategies for increasing the number of scholars studying and making contributions to an evolutionary industrial and organizational psychology.
... Third and finally, groups in our experiments were self-managed and lacked a designated leader. Others have shown that the quality of group decision-making is conditioned by leadership (Nevicka et al. 2011;Van Ginkel and Van Knippenberg 2012) and that groups benefit from leadership when competing against other groups (De Dreu et al. 2016;Lopez 2020). Whether and how leadership mitigates information sharing bias and group decision failures when groups compete against outside rivals is yet unknown and herein lies another important question for future research. ...
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Group discussion often becomes one-sided and confirmatory, with poor decisions as the unfortunate outcome. Here we examine whether intergroup competition amplifies or mitigates effects of individual versus team reward on information sharing biases and group decision quality. Individuals ( N = 309) in 103 interacting groups were given private information on four decision alternatives and discussed a joint decision. Private information was distributed such that groups faced a “hidden profile” in which pushing for initial preferences and commonly held information prohibits the group from finding the best alternative. Group members were rewarded for team or individual performance, and groups faced intergroup competition or not. Whereas intergroup competition did not influence common-information bias, we find that when intergroup competition is absent, groups under individual (versus team) reward have stronger preference-consistency bias and make poorer decisions. When intergroup competition is present, however, groups under individual reward perform as good as groups under team reward. Results resonate with the possibility that intergroup competition overshadows within-group rivalry, and can promote even-handed discussions within small groups of decision-makers.
... This invites discussion about what Rojas [30] calls leadership for the community to differentiate it from leadership of the community. In the former information, the representatives work for the community, but, in some cases, they may be tempted to focus on their personal interests at the expense of the group [31]. In this regard, the investigation indicates the presence, on the one hand, of lax leaders that affected the fulfillment of the objectives and, on the other hand, of authoritarian leaders that generated power relations in which they cease to be representatives of the community, because of the exercise of their managerial positions without proper consultation with the base. ...
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The objective of this article is to deepen the knowledge of collective action in irrigation organizations in Colombia, by identifying the limitations of the members for their organizational work and the variables of context that determine collective behavior. Human and environmental factors have not been sufficiently considered in public irrigation policies, since, in the case of Colombia, these have focused almost exclusively on the physical infrastructure. The methodology develops a qualitative approach based on an ethnographic and quantitative study of the socioeconomic characteristics of irrigation users. The results allow us to affirm that the collective awareness of water is a common good. The vision of the associates about the associative work, the conformation and structuring of the organizations, the nature of the established agreements, and the socio-economic, environmental, and political environment of the organizations studied, are determining factors of their collective action and, therefore, should be taken into account in public policies of associative irrigation.
... This view of moral sentiments suggests that morality is an important driver of social identities and a willingness to invest in causes. For example, moral outrage-the communication of what someone did to someone else-can serve as a coordination device for people to gang up against others (Tooby & Cosmides, 2010) and has been the tool of demagogues and tyrants throughout history (Lopez, 2019). Yet, at the same time, moral outrage is what drives the success of nonviolent resistance: If beatings, arrest, imprisonment, and torture occur in response to acts of nonviolent resistance, then we may view those committing this violence as unjust aggressors, and we will come to side with the victims for the reasons described above. ...
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"...adopting an evolutionary approach will in principle allow us to resolve the long-standing tension (and discontinuity) between the outward, objective circumstances of group relationships and our subjective internal states and motivations surrounding them. On an evolutionary approach, our internal states and motivations were caused by the outward, objective circumstances of group relationships—but not of our current group relationships, but rather those that were reliability present over evolutionary time. And these internal states and motivations are for producing mechanism-level differential reproductive success. Thus, the causal link between the external and internal nature of groups lies in our evolved history, a history that is being slowly uncovered."
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The history of political events is made by people. It doesn't exist without us. From wars to elections to political protests, the choices we make, our actions, how we behave, dictate events. Not all individuals have the same impact on our world and our lives. Some peoples' choices alter the pathways that history takes. In particular, national chief executives play a large role in forging the destinies of the countries they lead. Why Leaders Fight is about those world leaders and how their beliefs, world views, and tolerance for risk and military conflict are shaped by their life experiences before they enter office - military, family, occupation, and more. Using in-depth research on important leaders and the largest set of data on leader backgrounds ever gathered, the authors of Why Leaders Fight show that - within the constraints of domestic political institutions and the international system - who ends up in office plays a critical role in determining when and why countries go to war.
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This study addresses the causes of fighting among hunter-gatherers, whose way of life represents 99.5 percent of human history. Focusing on somatic and reproductive causes in Part I and on such diverse causes as dominance, revenge, the "security dilemma," and "pugnacity" in Part II, the study seeks to show how all these motives, rather than being separate, come together in an integrated motivational complex, shaped by the logic of evolution and natural selection.
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Warfare has traditionally been considered unique to humans. It has, therefore, often been explained as deriving from features that are unique to humans, such as the possession of weapons or the adoption of a patriarchal ideology. Mounting evidence suggests, however, that coalitional killing of adults in neighboring groups also occurs regularly in other species, including wolves and chimpanzees. This implies that selection can favor components of intergroup aggression important to human warfare, including lethal raiding. Here I present the principal adaptive hypothesis for explaining the species distribution of intergroup coalitional killing. This is the "imbalance-of-power hypothesis," which suggests that coalitional killing is the expression of a drive for dominance over neighbors. Two conditions are proposed to be both necessary and sufficient to account for coalitional killing of neighbors: (1) a state of intergroup hostility; (2) sufficient imbalances of power between parties that one party can attack the other with impunity. Under these conditions, it is suggested, selection favors the tendency to hunt and kill rivals when the costs are sufficiently low. The imbalance-of-power hypothesis has been criticized on a variety of empirical and theoretical grounds which are discussed. To be further tested, studies of the proximate determinants of aggression are needed. However, current evidence supports the hypothesis that selection has favored a hunt-and-kill propensity in chimpanzees and humans, and that coalitional killing has a long history in the evolution of both species. Yrbk Phys Anthropol 42:1-30, 1999.
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Greater theoretical consensus and cohesion could offer critical insights for the broader community of international relations scholars into the role that gender plays in spawning and sustaining processes of violence. This review essay examines the role of gender in generating and perpetuating violence and aggression, both in theory and practice. I make four central claims. First, in many studies involving the role of sex and gender in violence, specific causal models tend to remain underspecified. Second, a divergence in fundamental assumptions regarding the ontological basis of sex differences implicitly permeates and shatters this literature. Third, arguments that men and women are more or less likely to fight appear too simplistic; rather, it is worth considering that men and women may possess different motivations for fighting, and fight under different circumstances and for different reasons. Finally, systematic differences in the variant psychologies of men and women regarding the relative merit of offense and defense exert predictable consequences for public opinion surrounding the conduct of war in particular.
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We report three studies which test a sexual selection hypothesis for male war heroism. Based on evolutionary theories of mate choice we hypothesize that men signal their fitness through displaying heroism in combat. First, we report the results of an archival study on US-American soldiers who fought in World War II. We compare proxies for reproductive success between a control sample of 449 regular veterans and 123 surviving Medal of Honor recipients of WWII. Results suggest that the heroes sired more offspring than the regular veterans. Supporting a causal link between war heroism and mating success, we then report the results of two experimental studies (N’s = 92 and 340). We find evidence that female participants specifically regard men more sexually attractive if they are war heroes. This effect is absent for male participants judging female war heroes, suggesting that bravery in war is a gender specific signal. Finally, we discuss possible implications of our results.
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Intergroup conflict is a persistent feature of many human societies yet little is known about why individuals participate when doing so imposes a mortality risk. To evaluate whether participation in warfare is associated with reproductive benefits, we present data on participation in small-scale livestock raids among the Nyangatom, a group of nomadic pastoralists in East Africa. Nyangatom marriages require the exchange of a significant amount of bridewealth in the form of livestock. Raids are usually intended to capture livestock, which raises the question of whether and how these livestock are converted into reproductive opportunities. Over the short term, raiders do not have a greater number of wives or children than nonraiders. However, elders who were identified as prolific raiders in their youth have more wives and children than other elders. Raiders were not more likely to come from families with fewer older maternal sisters or a greater number of older maternal brothers. Our results suggest that in this cultural context raiding provides opportunities for increased reproductive success over the lifetime.