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  • Writer's pictureArnold Schroder

#42: Life Is Holy War pt. 2: Asymmetries of Aggression

(02/10/2022) We continue our mashup of political psychology, the biology of aggression, and left-right brain hemisphere differences, in the latter case guided by Iain McGilchrist's The Master and His Emissary: The Divided Brain and the Making of the Western World. We examine how themes of holism and context vs. reduction and utilitarianism in brain hemisphere processing styles relates to political perception, and examine descriptions from all three literature domains of empathy, bonding, gesture, expressivity, behavioral flexibility, fear, anger, and aggression. Then, we examine the bizarrely persistent cross-cultural record of what is perhaps best described as aggression towards the left half of the body by the right, reflected in everything from synonyms for the terms left-right to body modifications that impair or injure the left side. Finally, we examine the subordination of cultures with a broader purview by cultures concerned primarily with domination. In each case—left-right political difference, brain hemisphere processing dynamics, and culture change—we see how a particularly useful understanding is in terms of asymmetries of aggression.

Bibliography for episode 42:

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DeYoung, C. G., Quilty, L. C., Peterson, J. B., & Gray, J. R. (2013). Openness to Experience, Intellect, and Cognitive Ability. Journal of Personality Assessment, 96(1), 46–52. doi:10.1080/00223891.2013.806327

Evans-Prichard, E. E. (1956) Nuer Religion. Oxford at the Clarendon Press.

Gimbutas, M. (1991) The Civilization of the Goddess: The World of Old Europe. Harper Collins.

Hare, B. & Woods, V. (2020) Survival of the Friendliest: Understanding our Origins and Rediscovering Our Common Humanity. Penguin Random House.

Hare, B., Melis, A., Woods, V., Hastings, S. & Wrangham, R. (2007) Tolerance allows bonobos to outperform chimpanzees on a cooperative task. Current Biology 17:619–23.

Hare, B., Plyusnina, I., Ignacio, N., Schepina, O., Stepika, A., Wrangham, R. & Trut, L. (2005) Social cognitive evolution in captive foxes is a correlated by-product of experimental domestication. Current Biology 15:226–30.

Hare, B., Wobber, V., & Wrangham, R. (2012) The self-domestication hypothesis: evolution of bonobo psychology is due to selection against aggression. Animal Behaviour 83:573-85.

Hibbing, J. R., Smith, K. B., & Alford, J. R. (2014) Differences in negativity bias underlie variations in political ideology. Behavioral and Brain Sciences 37:297–307.

Jost, J. T., Glaser, J., Kruglanski, A. W. & Sulloway, F. J. (2003) Political conservatism as motivated social cognition. Psychological Bulletin 129:339–75.

Levi-Strauss, C. 1963. Structural Anthropology. Basic Books.

Mandal, M. K. & Dutta, T. (2001) Left handedness: Facts and figures from across cultures. Psychology and Developing Societies 13(2):173-191.

McGilchrist, I. (2009) The Master and His Emissary: The Divided Brain and the Making of the Western World. Yale University Press.

Schmookler, A. B. (1995) The Parable of the Tribes: The Problem of Power in Social Evolution. State University of New York Press.

Trut, L. N. (1999) Early canid domestication: Farm-fox experiment. American Scientist 87: 160–9.

Trut, L. N., Plyusnina, I. Z. & Oskina, I. N. (2004) An experiment on fox domestication and debatable issues of evolution of the dog. Russian Journal of Genetics 40(6):644–55.

West-Eberhard, M. J. (2005) Developmental plasticity and the origin of species differences

Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 102 (suppl 1) 6543-6549. DOI: 10.1073/pnas.0501844102

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