Evolutionary developmental explanations of gender differences in interpersonal conflict: A response to Trnka (2013)
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Evolutionary developmental explanations of gender differences in interpersonal conflict: A response to Trnka (2013)

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From the book : Evolutionary Psychology 11 issue 4 : 788-790.
In focusing on gender differences in anger expression, Trnka (2013) provides a useful complement to the article by Ingram et al., (2012) analyzing gender differences in children’s narratives about peer conflict.
I agree that gender differences in anger are more likely to be the result of differential socialization processes regarding the expression of anger than by innate differences in the experience of anger.
Gender differences in intersexual anger and aggression are likely to be affected by the social context, and especially whether a female is interacting with a romantic partner or an unknown male.
The implication of socialization in anger expression raises the possibility that culture plays a causal role in encouraging cooperative breeding by inhibiting inter-female aggressive displays.
Another of Trnka’s proposals, that the expression of anger contributes to reconciliation and inhibits long-term relationship damage, is intuitively plausible and supported by the research literature, but not by data from the current study.

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Published 01 January 2013
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Evolutionary Psychology
www.epjournal.net2013. 11(4): 788790
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Original Article
Evolutionary Developmental Explanations of Gender Differences Interpersonal Conflict: A Response to Trnka (2013)
in
Gordon P. D. Ingram, School of Society, Enterprise and Environment, Bath Spa University, Bath, England. Email:.gb@margnipa.aathsc.uk
Abstract: focusing on gender differences in anger expression, Trnka (2013) provides a In useful complement to the article by Ingram et al., (2012) analyzing gender differences in children’s narratives about peer conflict. I agree that gender differences in anger are more likely to be the result of differential socialization processes regarding the expression of anger than by innate differences in the experience of anger. Gender differences in intersexual anger and aggression are likely to be affected by the social context, and especially whether a female is interacting with a romantic partner or an unknown male. The implication of socialization in anger expression raises the possibility that culture plays a causal role in encouraging cooperative breeding by inhibiting interfemale aggressive displays.Another of Trnka’s proposals, that the expression of anger contributes to reconciliation and inhibits longterm relationship damage, is intuitively plausible and supported by the research literature, but not by data from the current study.
Keywords: anger, cultural group selection, dominance, sex differences, aggression, socialization
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hat it is the expression rather than the experience of anger that differs most between sexes.
Evolutionary developmental explanations of gender differences
Trnka (2013) also provided several interesting evolutionary hypotheses for why this difference might exist. Three of his hypotheses make use of Harris’s(1994) finding that women are more likely to approve of aggression by women against men than against other women. While I am not dismissing these hypotheses, I would like to comment that this finding related to a scenario involving potential romantic partners (on a date). Outside of that context, men were more approving of aggression against other (unknown) men. I am thus notthat women might be more likely to make angryconvinced by Trnka’s arguments displays against men either because they think men will be more resilient to such displays (Hypothesis 4) or because they might face greater social sanctions for aggressing against other women (Hypothesis 1). Instead, a specific elevation of aggression by women towards male romantic partners can be accounted forby parental investment theory, since the man’s investment in hispartner’s reproductive effort should make it maladaptive for him to respond to her anger with overwhelming levels of physical aggression. This idea is not incompatible with a modified version of Trnka’s third hypothesis—which noted that women feel intense stress in response to male anger displayssince an angry display by a male romantic partner might serve as a signal that he did not, in fact, have a sense of shared parental investment with her. More intriguing is Trnka’s(2013) second hypothesis, that women are more sensitive to negative social feedback (often aimed at inducing negative social emotions, especially shame and guilt) than men are. As he pointed out, strong expressions of anger tend to be repressed by most cultures in most social situations (Trnka and Stuchlikova, 2013). This complements my own recent suggestion that negative social feedback against direct physical aggression contributes to the development of increasingly indirect aggressive strategies as children grow older (Ingram, in press). Females’ greater susceptibility to negative social feedback would thus explain why they tend to use indirect aggression more than direct aggression (Hess and Hagen, 2006; but note that most reviewse.g., Archer, 2004are inconclusive as to whether girls engage in indirect aggression more than boys do). The greater inhibition of anger expression by females may be because human females are cooperative breeders (Hrdy, 2009)unlike in, say, hyenas, where physical struggles for dominance tend to take place mainly between males (Wrangham and Peterson, 1996). The implication of negative social feedback in this process suggests a role for socialization processesand therefore culturein the evolution of behaviors, such as the inhibition of aggression, that help to support female cooperative breeding. More comparative, developmental, and crosscultural work needs to be done to evaluate this proposal. Finally, Trnka (2013) suggests that anger displays can sometimes function prosocially, as an aid to reconciliation between friends. This idea receives support from the finding of Recchia and Howe (2010) that siblings are more likely to compromise if they considerthe other sibling’s anger (in a conflict narrative)as well as their own. There were no data presented on compromise in the Ingram et al. (2012) study, but I reanalyzed the data on reconciliation to see if there was a link with descriptions of mutual anger in the conflict narratives. No significant effects were found using either a simple chisquared test or generalized estimating equations (i.e., using the same statistical analyses as described by Ingram et al., 2012). However, thisad hocresult does not mean that a properly controlled
Evolutionary PsychologyISSN 14747049 789Volume 11(4). 2013.
Evolutionary developmental explanations of gender differences
and powered study might not find a link between anger displays and reconcil iation, mediated by the conflict partners’ greater awareness of each other’s anger.Acknowledgements:I would like to thank Radek Tnka for writing the commentary that prompted this response, and Karolina Prochownik for illuminating theoretical discussions.
Received 23 July 2013; Accepted 23 July 2013
References
Archer, J. (2004). Sex differences in aggression in realworld settings: A metaanalytic review.Review of General Psychology,8, 291322. Harris, M. B. (1994). Gender of subject and target as mediators of aggression.Journal of Applied Social Psychology,24, 453471. Hess, N. H., and Hagen, E. H. (2006). Sex differences in indirect aggression: Psychological evidence from young adults.Evolution and Human Behavior,27, 231245. Hrdy, S. B. (2009).Mothers and others: The evolutionary origins of mutual understanding. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press. Ingram, G. P. D. (in press). From hitting to tattling to gossip: An evolutionary rationale for the development of indirect aggression.Evolutionary Psychology, forthcoming special issue onEvolutionary developmental psychology. Ingram, G. P. D., Campos, J., Hondrou, C., Vasalou, A., Martinho, C., and Joinson, A. (2012). Applying evolutionary psychology to a serious game about children's interpersonal conflict.Evolutionary Psychology, 5,884898. Recchia, H. E., and Howe, N. (2010). When do siblings compromise? Associations with children's descriptions of conflict issues, culpability, and emotions.Social Development,19, 838857. Trnka, R. (2013). Gender differences in human interpersonal conflicts: A reply to Ingram et al. (2012).Evolutionary Psychology, 11, 17. Trnka, R., and Stuchlikova, I. (2013). Anger coping strategies and anger regulation. In R. Trnka, K. Balcar, and M. Kuska (Eds.),Reconstructing emotional spaces: From experience to regulation(pp. 123143). Saarbrücken, Germany: Lambert. Wrangham, R., and Peterson, D. (1996).Demonic males: Apes and the origins of human violence. New York: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt.
Evolutionary PsychologyISSN 14747049Volume 11(4). 2013. 790