From football thugs clashing on the terraces to soldiers killing each other on the front line, most conflict can be blamed on the male sex drive, a study suggests.
The review of psychological research concludes that men evolved to be aggressive towards ‘outsiders’, a tendency at the root of inter-tribal violence.
It emerged through natural selection as a result of competition for mates, territory and status, and is seen in conflicts between nations as well as clashes involving rival gangs, football fans or religious groups, say the researchers.
In contrast, they add, women evolved to resolve conflicts peacefully. They are said to have been programmed by natural selection to ‘tend and befriend’ to protect their children.
Professor Mark van Vugt, of Oxford University’s Institute of Cognitive and Evolutionary Anthropology, said: ‘A solution to conflict . . . remains elusive.
‘One reason might be the difficulty we have in changing our mindset, which has evolved over thousands of years.’
The findings, which support the ‘male warrior hypothesis’, are published in the journal Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B.
The psychologists claim that in all cultures and throughout history, men have sought to get their way by initiating violence.
They prefer group-based hierarchies and are identified more strongly with their own groups than women.
At a basic level, such ‘tribal’ aggression helped men in a group to obtain more females, increasing their chances of reproduction.
‘We see similar behaviour in chimpanzees,’ said Prof van Vugt. ‘For example, the males continuously monitor the borders of their territory.
‘If a female from another group comes along, she may be persuaded to emigrate to his group. When a male strays too far, however, he is likely to be brutally beaten and possibly killed.’