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Patricia Hawley

Department of Psychology
University of Kansas

The Evolution of Morality, and Some (Surprising) Implications for Children’s Social Functioning

February 22, 2008
Engineering Building 110, 4:00 PM

Abstract

The present work addresses moral functioning (cognition, affect, behavior) and children’s aggression and integration with the peer group. Traditional theoretical models (and conventional wisdom) maintain that moral functioning is negatively related to aggression, and that aggression in turn is negatively related to positive peer regard (e.g. kids don’t like immoral, aggressive peers). In contrast, the present (evolutionary) perspective sees morality more akin to a social tool, and, as such, the various aspects of morality may be independent from aggression (i.e., zero relationship) or even positively associated. Traditional variable-centered approaches (i.e., those that examine linear relationships among variables) are compared to Hawley’s typological approach to social dominance (i.e., ‘types’ of socially dominant children). Results suggest that traditional slants cannot explain well moral development in all children largely due to a sizeable group of highly aggressive, morally astute, and socially preferred of children (bistrategic social dominants). Social dominance is well served by understanding group norms and rules, even if they are not adhered to when they impede instrumental goals. Moreover, social dominance – even when associated with aggression – attracts a good deal of admiration and liking.

Sexual Fantasies of Domination: Feminine Pathology or Power? (2/21/2009 Noon Talk)

The present work addresses forceful submission fantasies in men and women. Although many approaches implicitly or explicitly cast females’ force fantasies in a pathological light, the present study seeks to explore the associations of such fantasy to female power. By adopting an evolutionary meta-theoretical perspective (and a resource control theoretic perspective; Hawley, 1999), we hypothesize that highly agentic dominant women prefer forceful submission fantasies more than subordinate women as a means to connect them to agentic dominant men. Additionally, we hypothesized men would prefer submission fantasies over domination fantasies because of their attraction to agency and dominance in women. Two studies were conducted with nearly 900 college students (men and women) from a large Midwestern university. Predilection for such fantasies was found to be a function of overall sex fantasy content and beliefs about women’s sexuality for women, and social dominance for men. Analysis of meaning supports theoretical perspectives proposing that forceful submission reflects desires for sexual power on behalf of the fantasist. Implications for evolutionary approaches to human mate preferences are discussed.

Biography

Pat’s doctoral work involved quantifying inter-individual differences in intra-individual behavioral change processes (i.e., “personality”) in a captive group of Asian elephants. She took up human social development at the Max Planck Institute in Berlin, Germany, as a post-doc, and returned to the U.S. by way of a research position at Yale. She has been at the University of Kansas since 2002 where she integrates evolutionary principles with psychological approaches to human behavior across the life span, especially as such integration pertains to aggression, social competence, and power. Her 2007 volume (Aggression and adaptation: The bright side to bad behavior) challenges deeply entrenched beliefs held by traditionally trained developmentalists that aggression forebodes significant negative developmental outcomes for the aggressive child.

Readings

  1. Strategies of control, aggression, morality in preschoolers: An evolutionary perspective
  2. The Ontogenesis of social dominance: A strategy-based evolutionary perspective
  3. The myth of the alpha male: A new look at dominance-related beliefs and behaviors among adolescent males and females

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