Most women might like to believe that men fight to win their affections. However, the aggression men display toward one another often has little or nothing to do with the woman in question. According to a recent study led by Sarah E. Ainsworth of the Department of Psychology at Florida State University, men are more inclined to engage in violence to exhibit social dominance. Research has theorized that the desire for procreation motivates men to use certain behaviors to attract women. Less is known about the factors that prompt men to behave aggressively when they are faced with competition for a woman. Violence is a serious problem within intimate relationships. In social settings, violence can occur not just between two partners, but between two adversaries. Understanding why men become aggressive toward one another when they are in pursuit of a woman could help researchers design interventions and prevention strategies that target the root of the aggression.
In her study, Ainsworth enlisted male and female participants and conducted an experiment in which the men competed against other men or other women in a mating objective, and were instructed to deliver aggressive noise blasts in order to win. Another experiment gave the men an opportunity to assert dominance and control over their male rivals through nonviolent means. Ainsworth found that the men displayed more aggression—louder noise blasts—to the male adversaries than the female adversaries. In fact, when pitted against a female, the men did not show any signs of aggression. Similarly, when the men were given a method of asserting dominance over their male rivals without aggression, they chose the nonaggressive approach.
Ainsworth believes these results are clinically significant. Although the men in this study varied in age, she believes these findings demonstrate one of the causes of violence, particularly in younger men more vulnerable to impulsive behavior. “In tying male violence to its more ultimate motivational roots, the current research provides a basis for understanding—and reducing—many seemingly irrational acts of violence,” Ainsworth said. Having insight into these causes can help with the formation of treatments for violent behavior and can help men develop the skills necessary to seek out alternate methods of achieving a sense of social dominance over rivals without the use of aggressive tactics.
Ainsworth, Sarah E., and Jon K. Maner. Sex begets violence: Mating motives, social dominance, and physical aggression in men. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology 103.5 (2012): 819-29. Print.
© Copyright 2012 GoodTherapy.org. All rights reserved.
The preceding article was solely written by the author named above. Any views and opinions expressed are not necessarily shared by GoodTherapy.org. Questions or concerns about the preceding article can be directed to the author or posted as a comment below.