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Understanding GenocideThe Social Psychology of the Holocaust$
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Leonard S. Newman and Ralph Erber

Print publication date: 2002

Print ISBN-13: 9780195133622

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: March 2012

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780195133622.001.0001

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The Zoomorphism of Human Collective Violence

The Zoomorphism of Human Collective Violence

(p.222) 9 The Zoomorphism of Human Collective Violence
Understanding Genocide

R. B. Zajonc

Oxford University Press

The fields of evolutionary psychology and evolutionary social psychology were spawned by the intellectual ferment created by the principles of inclusive fitness and reproductive success. Based on these ideas, a number of bold implications deriving from the concepts of sociobiology and evolutionary psychology have been drawn in the scholarly domain — implications that were very rapidly echoed in the popular press and other media, most often in a simplified and vulgarized form. Even genocide has become subject to sociobiological explanation. This chapter questions the widespread and often uncritical applications of sociobiological principles to the explanation of collective violence, which in the twentieth century alone produced by some estimates, over 100 million civilian deaths. Not only is the zoomorphic generalization a wild exaggeration, but the sociobiological theory of aggression is unsupported by empirical data, and in many instances it is contradicted by them. This chapter also discusses scientific objectivity and the study of massacres.

Keywords:   evolutionary psychology, social psychology, zoomorphism, sociobiology, collective violence, genocide, aggression, massacres, scientific objectivity

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