Date of Submission

Spring 2012

Academic Program


Project Advisor 1

Kristin Lane

Abstract/Artist's Statement

This paper integrates evolutionary theory with evidence from experimental psychology as well as primatology, archaeology, and anthropology to argue that, due to the intense intergroup conflict that humans’ ancestors practiced for millions of years, natural selection has equipped the human mind with psychological mechanisms designed specifically to facilitate our adaptive navigation of intergroup conflict. The two major psychological adaptations proposed are the so-called “alliance detection system,” which is hypothesized to provide humans with the capacity to spontaneously categorize others as members of certain coalitions; and “outgroup wariness,” loosely defined as the intuitive sense that outgroup members are more threatening to oneself than are ingroup members. Five hypotheses regarding these two adaptations are formulated, and their supportive evidence is reviewed. Suggestions for future research along these lines, and potential applications to real-world intergroup conflict are also discussed.

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