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Why Violence? Because the Irrationalities Induced by Choice Frames Make Perfect Evolutionary Sense


W. Penn Handwerker


University of Connecticut

December 15, 2009


Abstract:     
This paper argues that strength deters violence and weakness elicits it because selection favors moral relativism and choices framed as gains between equals but moral clarity and choices framed as losses as inequalities grow. Deterrents consist of evolutionarily significant consequences for violent acts, but their credibility (and effects) should vary with the likelihood that people frame choices as gains or losses. Findings consistent with these claims come from (1) tests for cycle-of-violence effects on structured interview data for 344 post-transition men and women in Barbados, (2) tests for violence exposure effects on structured interview data for 165 men and women from Colombia, Denmark, Israel, South Africa, and the United States, and (3) a comprehensive test for framing effects with a pooled cross-sectional time-series on violent crime rates and the likelihood of evolutionarily significant consequences for violence perpetrators in the United States. Significant violence rate reductions may come from interventions that target choice frames either directly (for adults) or indirectly, by reducing violence toward children. The greatest violence rate reductions may require the creation of intervention cultures.

Number of Pages in PDF File: 25

Keywords: Violence, IPV, Terrorism, Rational Choice Theory, Choice Frames

JEL Classification: C70,D70,D74,D80

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Date posted: December 15, 2009  

Suggested Citation

Handwerker, W. Penn, Why Violence? Because the Irrationalities Induced by Choice Frames Make Perfect Evolutionary Sense (December 15, 2009). Available at SSRN: http://ssrn.com/abstract=1523850 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.1523850

Contact Information

W. Penn Handwerker (Contact Author)
University of Connecticut ( email )
Storrs, CT 06269
United States
HOME PAGE: http://www.anth.uconn.edu/faculty/handwerker/
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