Intergroup Conflict

Jonathan Lanman, Harvey Whitehouse, Scott Atran

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter


Interest in the dynamics of intergroup conflict continues to rise within and beyond anthropology. The cognitive and evolutionary sciences can help us better understand the ubiquity and causal dynamics of intergroup conflict by demonstrating the existence of, first, psychological adaptations for intragroup cooperation and intergroup conflict and, second, sociocultural adaptations for intragroup cooperation and intergroup conflict. Intergroup conflicts impact directly on individual fitness, and natural selection is thought to have produced psychological adaptations that allow individuals to better survive and reproduce in environments of intergroup competition. Such adaptations include an evolved ethnic psychology and tendency to hold some values as sacred. Moreover, sociocultural traditions, such as collective rituals, have evolved in distinct modes (e.g., imagistic and doctrinal) to produce the social cohesion necessary for groups to survive and thrive in diverse resource ecologies, including those characterized by intergroup conflict.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationInternational Encyclopedia of Anthropology: Cognitive and Psychological Anthropology
Number of pages4
Publication statusPublished - 05 Sept 2018


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