Abstract and Keywords
Evolutionary scholars often emphasize the strategic benefits of coalitions in male aggression and warfare. Evolutionary theories of human female coalitions, however, have not recognized any competitive function for coalitional behavior and instead emphasize mutual nurturing and help with child care. This focus is despite the fact that a significant body of research has shown that coalitions in nonhuman female primates do serve competitive functions. This essay argues that coalitional relationships among human females—like those among human males and those among female nonhuman primates—serve aggressive functions in reputational competition. It further argues that, for either sex, competition via gossip and coalitional gossip is usually a better strategy than physical aggression when it comes to within-group competition. Finally, the essay proposes that, because human females might face more within-group competition than human males, women and girls might engage in more gossip than men and boys.
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