Living Reference Work Entry

Encyclopedia of Evolutionary Psychological Science

pp 1-11

Date: Latest Version

Male Adaptations that Facilitate Success in War

  • Hannes RuschAffiliated withPhilipps University Marburg Email author 
  • , Mark van VugtAffiliated withVU University Amsterdam


Coalitional psychology; Intergroup conflict; Male warrior hypothesis


The male warrior hypothesis claims that the sex-specific adaptive pressures exerted by recurrent lethal intergroup conflicts in our ancestral past favored the evolution of a cognitive machinery enabling men to form and maintain aggressive coalitions with other males to the end of dominating and exploiting out-groups.


War is a gruesome phenomenon. Throughout (pre)history, humans engaging in this brutish activity have brought death, suffering, and destruction to an incalculable amount of their conspecifics. And although some scholars’ estimates indicate that the relative impact of wars on human survival and living conditions has been on the decline during the last couple of centuries (Pinker 2011), wars still continue to exert their devastating force today.

From an evolutionary perspective, wars pose a nontrivial puzzle. Why is it that humans are obviously ready and willing to put their lives ...

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