© 2014

The Evolution of Violence

  • Todd K. Shackelford
  • Ranald D. Hansen

Part of the Evolutionary Psychology book series (EVOLPSYCH)

Table of contents

  1. Front Matter
    Pages i-xii
  2. David M. Buss, Joshua D. Duntley
    Pages 1-21
  3. Lawrence H. Keeley
    Pages 23-31
  4. David J. Herring
    Pages 53-72
  5. Steven A. LeBlanc
    Pages 73-97
  6. Carlos David Navarrete, Melissa M. McDonald
    Pages 99-116
  7. Kevin M. Beaver, Joseph L. Nedelec, Joseph A. Schwartz, Eric J. Connolly
    Pages 117-135
  8. Catherine A. Salmon, Jessica A. Hehman
    Pages 137-157
  9. Catharine P. Cross, Anne C. Campbell
    Pages 211-232
  10. Back Matter
    Pages 233-244

About this book


Our contemporary capacity for understanding and empathy suggests that people are becoming less disposed to violence. At the same time, current developments in war technologies and the popularity of blood-soaked movies and video games point to the opposite conclusion. The works of Darwin hold crucial keys to the puzzle, yet his theories--and evolutionary theory in general--are often dismissed as relics, or worse. 

The Evolution of Violence explores and explodes myths about evolutionary theory while restoring Darwinian concepts to modern-day relevance. In these provocative pages, violence scholars from across the disciplines elegantly argue that evolutionary perspectives, far from conflicting with current science, complement and enhance standard social theory. Compelling original essays in areas such as domestic abuse, sibling conflict, and aggression in women make the case with clarity, and the contributors' theoretical and empirical insights carry significant practical implications for violence prevention. Among the featured topics:  

  • Sexual selection and the psychology of intergroup conflict.
  • Warfare and human nature.
  • Evolutionary behavioral genetics of violent crime.
  • Intimate partner violence: an evolutionary view.
  • Evolutionary perspectives on child welfare law.
  • An evolutionary developmental lens for understanding the causes and consequences of human aggression.

Scholarly and useful for researchers and evolutionary scientists while accessible to interested laypersons, The Evolution of Violence is no simple reminder of how far we've come as a species--it points clearly to our human potential for future progress.



aggression aggression in women child wefare law evolution evolution of violence evolutionary perspective evolutionary psychology human aggression human nature human violence murder partner violence psychology of intergroup conflict rape sexual conflict theory sexual selection siblicide sibling conflict sperm competition violence violence in literature violence in women violent crime warfare

Editors and affiliations

  • Todd K. Shackelford
    • 1
  • Ranald D. Hansen
    • 2
  1. 1.Department of PsychologyOakland UniversityRochesterUSA
  2. 2.Department of PsychologyOakland UniversityRochesterUSA

About the editors

Todd K. Shackelford received his Ph.D. in evolutionary psychology in 1997 from the University of Texas–Austin, his M.A. in psychology from the University of Michigan in 1995, and his B.A. in psychology from the University of New Mexico in 1993. He is Professor and Chair of the Department of Psychology at Oakland University ( in Rochester, Michigan, where he is Co-Director of the Evolutionary Psychology Lab ( He led the founding of new Ph.D. and M.S. programs (, which launched in 2012. Shackelford has published over 280 peer-reviewed articles and chapters and has edited 10 volumes, and his work has been cited over 7,500 times. Much of Shackelford’s research addresses sexual conflict between men and women, with a special focus on testing hypotheses derived from sperm competition theory. Since 2006, Shackelford has served as editor of Evolutionary Psychology (

Ranald D. Hansen is a Professor of Psychology at Oakland University in Rochester, Michigan. He also serves as the CEO of Innovation Emporium, Inc., a company focused on knowledge management, creating sustainable industry-university partnerships, and educational environment optimization. His research in cognitive science and psychophysiology has been funded by the National Science Foundation and the National Institutes of Health. A significant portion of this work was directed toward developing a model derived from an evolutionary science perspective for integrating emotive and cognitive processes. In the past decade he has participated in creating multiple regional innovation drivers, including technology accelerators and innovation zones.

Bibliographic information


"This collection represents the scientific and intellectual richness of the contemporary understanding of violence from an evolutionary perspective, and amply demonstrates why an understanding of the biological roots of violence (and nonviolence) is indispensable to our species’ attempt to reduce it."
Steven Pinker