Informational warfare

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).

Associated personnel

Related publications

PDF Hess NH and Hagen EH 2023. The impact of gossip, reputation, and context on resource transfers among Aka hunter-gatherers, Ngandu horticulturalists, and MTurkers. Evolution and Human Behavior.
LNK Ayers JD, Krems JA, Hess NH, Aktipis A 2022. Mother-in-Law Daughter-in-Law Conflict: an Evolutionary Perspective and Report of Empirical Data from the USA. Evolutionary Psychological Science.
PDF Hess NH 2022. Friendship, Mating, and Reputation in U.S. College Sororities: Exploring Female Intrasexual Competition and Cooperation. Archives of Sexual Behavior.
PDF Hess NH and Hagen EH 2021. Competitive gossip: The impact of resource value, resource contestedness, and coalitions. Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B.
PDF Hess NH 2019. From the Orinoco to sorority row: Searching for a field site as an evolutionary anthropologist. In The Secret Lives of Anthropologists: Lessons from the Field. Routledge.
PDF Hess NH and Hagen EH 2019. Gossip, Reputation, and Friendship in Within-group Competition. In: Oxford Handbook of Gossip and Reputation. Oxford University Press.
PDF Hess NH 2017. Informational warfare: Coalitional gossiping as a strategy for within-group aggression. Oxford library of psychology. The Oxford handbook of women and competition.
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.
-- Hagen EH, Hammerstein P, and Hess NH 2009. Theoretical aspects of communication and language. In S. Nolfi and M. Mirolli, editors, Evolution of Communication and Language in Embodied and Situated Agents. Springer Verlag.
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 Hess NH and Hagen EH 2006. Psychological adaptations for assessing gossip believability. Human Nature, 17, 337-354.