Department of Anthropology

Informational warfare

WSUV Faculty participants

Evolutionary accounts of coalitional relationships among human males emphasize the role of physical aggression in obtaining valued, limited resources. When physical force determines access to important resources like food, territory, and mates, alliances and coalitions provide a distinct advantage to their members – larger groups will almost always outcompete smaller groups or individuals for the valued resource. Coalitional relationships in human females, however, are not viewed as having been shaped for aggressive, within-sex competition for scarce resources. For example, the 'tend and befriend' account of women's relationships emphasizes the evolutionary benefits of mutual nurturing, caregiving, and emotional support, and Smuts has suggested that female coalitions can provide protection from male aggression. The view that women’s cooperative relationships serve benign or defensive functions rather than aggressive, offensive functions seems to be inconsistent with the well-established finding that female nonhuman primates often form alliances and coalitions to better physically compete with other females for limited resources.

This research project is exploring the hypothesis that female coalitions increase the ability of women to attack and defend reputations with information (gossip).

Articles and Chapters

PDF Hess NH, Helfrecht C, Hagen EH, Sell A and Hewlett BS 2010. Interpersonal aggression among Aka hunter-gatherers of the Central African Republic: Assessing the effects of sex, strength, and anger. Human Nature, 21, 330-354.
PDF Hess NH and Hagen EH 2006. Psychological adaptations for assessing gossip believability. Human Nature, 17, 337-354.
PDF Hess NH and Hagen EH 2006. Sex differences in indirect aggression: Psychological evidence from young adults. Evolution and Human Behavior, 27, 231-245.


PDF Helfrecht C, Hess NH, Hagen E, Sell A and Hewlett B 2009. Anger and aggression among Aka hunter-gatherers. The evolution of human aggression. Utah.