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Interpersonal Aggression among Aka Hunter-Gatherers of the Central African Republic

Assessing the Effects of Sex, Strength, and Anger

Abstract

Sex differences in physical and indirect aggression have been found in many societies but, to our knowledge, have not been studied in a population of hunter-gatherers. Among Aka foragers of the Central African Republic we tested whether males physically aggressed more than females, and whether females indirectly aggressed more than males, as has been seen in other societies. We also tested predictions of an evolutionary theory of physical strength, anger, and physical aggression. We found a large male bias in physical aggression. Controlling for anger, we found an adult female bias in indirect aggression. Physical strength predicted anger, which predicted hitting, although results were sensitive to the inclusion or exclusion of traditional healers, who were physically and emotionally distinct from other Aka. With some important caveats, our results generally support the predicted sex differences in physical aggression and indirect aggression, and the predicted relationships among anger, strength, and aggression.

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Notes

  1. The term pygmy is now viewed as derogatory, but no suitable replacement has yet emerged.

  2. Note that we did not specify whether “most other Aka” included only Aka in one’s own age category.

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Acknowledgments

Funding provided by the College of Liberal Arts, Washington State University. We thank our Ngandu research assistants and the Aka participants.

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Correspondence to Nicole Hess.

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Hess, N., Helfrecht, C., Hagen, E. et al. Interpersonal Aggression among Aka Hunter-Gatherers of the Central African Republic. Hum Nat 21, 330–354 (2010). https://doi.org/10.1007/s12110-010-9094-0

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Keywords

  • Physical aggression
  • Indirect aggression
  • Social norms
  • Sex differences
  • Foragers