An Evolutionary Psychological Perspective On Homicide
Martin Daly & Margo Wilson conflicts of interest are fundamentally about, and such an understanding must itself be predicated on a basic theory of the sources and substance of individual self-interests. Fortunately, scientists have been developing, testing, and refining the requisite body of theory for decades, with theresult that it is now sufficiently complex, nonintuitive, and well verified to be of real value to criminologists and other social scientists. The area of intellectual endeavor to which we refer has come to be called evolutionary psychology (Barkow, Cosmides, & Toobv. 1992; Bock & Cardew, 1997; Daly & Wilson. 1988a, 1988b, 1995, 1997; Simpson & Kenrick. 1997; Wright, 1994). This chapter is intendedto provide an overview of this perspective and to demonstrate its utility for enhancing the understanding of homicide.
Spend some time perusing an archive of homicide cases and you are likely to find that certain conflict typologies, characteristic of particular victim-killer relationship categories are common. Barroom interactions among unrelated men became heated contests concerning dominance,deference, and face, and escalated to lethality. Women seeking to exercise autonomy were slain by proprietary ex-partners. Thieves killed victims they feared might cause them trouble later. Children were fatally assaulted by angry caretakers. How are we to understand why certain recurring types of conflicts of interest engender passions that are sometimes so intense as to motivate theseprototypical sorts of homicides? A satisfactory answer to this question seems to require an understanding of what interpersonal
AUTHOR'S NOTE: We thank the following agencies for financial support of the work cited in this chapter: the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada, the Harry Frank Guggenheim Foundation, the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada, theNorth Atlantic Treaty Organization, the John Simon Guggenheim Foundation, the Center of Advanced Study in the Behavioral Sciences, Health and Welfare Canada, the McMaster University Arts Research Board, and the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation.
A SHORT INTRODUCTION TO EVOLUTIONARY PSYCHOLOGY
The evolutionary view is that the basic perceptions of self-interest shared by all normalmembers of a given species are products of a long history of natural and sexual selection and thus may be expected to exhibit "design" for promoting fitness (genetic posterity) in ancestral environments. The phrase "perceptions of self-interest" should be interpreted broadly. We intend that it should encompass appetites and aversions both for relatively specific pleasures and pains and for suchintangibles as social status and selfesteem, and even that it should encompass processes that are not psychological in any ordinary sense of that word. Our immune systems and cell membranes, for example, operate outside our awareness, but they participate in perceiving and defending our interests nonetheless. In this view, it is often useful to analyze an individual organism into its constituentadaptations, that is, components with specific functions. A human being, for example, is a complex integrated system in which distinct tasks such as respiration, learning, digestion, visual scene analysis, killing parasitic microorganisms, and so forth are carried out by distinct bits of anatomical, biochemical, and psychological machinery. The properties of these bits of machinery are largely to beunderstood in terms of their separate functions, but a fuller understanding requires consideration of how they fit into the functionally integrated, higher-order agenda of the whole organism. From an evolutionary perspective, the essence of that higher-order agenda is the manufacture of additional, similar creatures, because reproductive posterity is the sole criterion by which all that complex...