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A comprehensive evolutionary analysis of violent behaviors

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From the book : Evolutionary Psychology 11 issue 2 : 415-416.
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Evolutionary Psychology
www.epjournal.net2013. 11(2): 415416
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Book Review
A Comprehensive Evolutionary Analysis of Violent Behaviors
A review of Todd K. Shackelford and Viviana A. WeekesShackelford (Eds.),The Oxford Handbook of Evolutionary Perspectives on Violence, Homicide, and War. Oxford University Press: New York, 2012, 576 pp., US $142.50, ISBN # 9780199738403 (hardcover).Kevin M. Beaver, College of Criminology and Criminal Justi ce, Florida State University, Tallahassee, FL 323061127, USA. Email:kbfsr@veeaude.u  Violencewhether it is committed as part of a criminal act or whether it is state sponsoredrepresents one of the more intriguing yet least understood aspects of human behavior. Although the etiology of these types of violent behaviors have been discussed, debated, and empirically studied for centuries, there remains a paucity of explanations that have much merit. Perhaps part of the reason for this general lack of understanding when it comes to violent behavior is due to certain explanatory factors not being fully studied. Nowhere has this been more evident than when it comes to evolutionary perspectives on the understanding of human violence. Only during the past three or four decades has there been much scholarship produced arguing that certain evolutionary mechanisms are linked to violent types of human behaviors. And, only in the past couple of decades have these evolutionary perspectives gained much traction across the larger academic community.  Much of the evolutionary literature examining various issues related to violent behavior, however, has remained somewhat fragmented, with studies related to aggression, violence, and warfare having relatively little crossfertilization. This is particularly problematic when it comes to violent behaviors because, while specific types of violent behaviors certainly have different causes and consequences, there appears to be at least some overlap among these various phenotypes (some more than others, of course). Fortunately, Todd K. Shackelford and Viviana A. WeekesShackelford have done the academic community a great service by bringing together many of the leading figures studying violent behaviors from an evolutionary perspective in a single edited volume. This volume,Oxford Handbook of Evolutionary Perspectives on Violence, Homicide, and The War, is a massive book that contains twentyseven chapters organized around five broad themes.  The first section of the book provides an introduction to evolutionary perspectives as they relate to violent behaviors. There are three chapters in this section of the book and together they work to situate the evolutionviolence linkage within the larger literature. The
A comprehensive evolutionary analysis of violent behaviors
second section of the book, which contains a total of seven chapters, focuses on evolutionary perspectives on family violenc e and homicide, including such topics as intimate partner violence, filicide, siblicide, and suicide. In the third section of the book, there are six chapters devoted to evolutionary perspectives on extrafamilial violence. These chapters cover an array of topics, including sexual offending, female aggression, terrorism, and adolescent bullying. The fourth section of the book centers on evolutionary perspectives on war. There are a total of seven chapters in this section focusing on tribal warfare, war histo ries, and the consequences of war on child development. In the last section of the book, four chapters are included which discuss future directions related to evolutionary perspectives on violence. These chapters do a great job of tying the chapters together and for offering some guidance as to how this line of research could be advanced in future scholarship.  There is much to like about this book. It provides a diverse set of views and explanations related to violent behaviors, it focuses on an assortment of violent behaviors ranging from homicides to warfare, and it features leading experts on the evolutionary mechanisms related to violence. But what I found to be the most enjoyable and noteworthy aspect of the book is the eclectic group of contributors. These contributors span multiple disciplines and approach the evolutionary understanding of violence from different angles. In this volume, Shackelford and Shackelford are able to show that while there is heterogeneity in how these scholars approach the st udy of violence, they are all connected by the organizational framework of an evolutionary perspective. This type of connection is salient to creating a more unified knowledge base when it comes to understanding issues related to violence and, at the same time, brings us a bit closer to E.O. Wilson’s notion of consilience. In sum,The Oxford Handbook of Evolutionary Perspectives on Violence, Homicide, and War a toprate book that should grace the bookshelf of any academician represents interested in the evolutionary underpinnings to violence. Without a doubt, the chapters will incite debate, foster future research, and perhaps most importantly will inspire future students to pursue evolutionary perspectives in their own areas of interest.
Evolutionary PsychologyISSN 14747049 416Volume 11(2). 2013.
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