Ritual group pain: Strong negative experiences help explain evolutionary puzzle of suicide attacks

  • In Science
  • 2017-03-14 10:00:02Z
  • By International Business Times

Going through harmful and dysphoric group experiences can act as a mechanism to groom people for extreme self-sacrifice, such as terrorist attacks, an evolutionary biology study has found.

The human behaviour of being prepared to die for the benefit of non-relatives is an evolutionary puzzle. It is not a modern phenomenon - soldiers or warriors willing to die for their country or community are an example that stretches back as far as the history of war.

Trending: Do Brexit and Trump show we're living in an advanced alien civilisation's computer simulation?

But this form of so-called extreme altruism doesn't help to pass on an individual's genes, because direct relatives do not necessarily benefit from the behaviour any more than unrelated people. As a result, its evolutionary origin has been unclear.

An evolutionary explanation for this behaviour put forward in a study published in the journal Scientific Reports is that sharing extremely negative experiences can boost group cooperation. This was to improve the future prospects of the group, which were a more important factor than the history - or ancestry - of the group, the study found.

"While previous research in evolutionary biology has identified a number of paths for the evolution of cooperation, this study introduces a novel, previously under-appreciated but very powerful mechanism: conditioning acts of extreme cooperation on shared prior experience," said study author Sergey Gavrilets of the University of Tennessee and the National Institute for Mathematical and Biological Synthesis, in a statement.

Most popular: Egypt's Nile Delta threatened by looming crisis of water and food shortages

The study used evolutionary computer modelling techniques to test several hypotheses of how extreme self-sacrifice could arise and persist in human populations. Empirical research on behaviour of groups that go through painful rituals or hazing supported the hypothesis. It held true across groups from Vietnam War veterans, American university fraternities and sororities, Brazilian Jiu Jitsu practitioners and English Premier League football fans.

The process of hazing or other very unpleasant rituals - such as ritual belt whipping in the case of Brazilian Jiu Jitsu - led to a sense of 'identity fusion', blurring the personal with the social.

"Practically, our account of how shared dysphoric experiences produce identity fusion helps us better understand such pressing social issues as suicide terrorism, holy wars, sectarian violence, gang-related violence, and other forms of intergroup conflict," the authors write in the paper.

You may be interested in:


More Related News

'Devastated' Ariana Grande Met by Family as She Arrives in Florida Following Concert Terrorist Attack: 'She Just Wants to Be with Loved Ones Right Now'

Ariana Grande has arrived back in the States following the devastating terrorist attack after her Manchester Arena show in the U.K. Monday evening.

The Islamic State and the End of Lone-Wolf Terrorism
The Islamic State and the End of Lone-Wolf Terrorism

From Manchester to Orlando, the followers of the Islamic State aren't operating "alone" anymore. And there are no easy answers to defeating an online community of terrorists.

'Terrorism Is Aimed at the People Watching'
'Terrorism Is Aimed at the People Watching'

When an explosion killed 22 people at a concert in Manchester, England, late Monday, media organizations across the English speaking world rushed to break the news.

Children among 22 killed in Manchester concert terror attack
Children among 22 killed in Manchester concert terror attack

Children were among 22 people killed in a suicide bombing at a pop concert in the British city of Manchester, the country's deadliest terror attack in 12 years. Screaming fans, many of them teenagers, fled the venue in panic after the bomb blast, which came at the end of a concert by US star Ariana Grande in the northern English city late on Monday. Police said the attacker was believed to be "carrying an improvised explosive device which he detonated causing this atrocity" and had himself died at the scene, but gave no further details about him.

Manchester terror attack: What we know
Manchester terror attack: What we know

At least 22 people, including children, died in a suicide bombing at a pop concert packed with teens in the British city of Manchester late Monday. Here is what we know so far about the terror attack, the deadliest in Britain since 2005. Police said they were called at 10:33pm (2133 GMT) to reports of an explosion at Manchester Arena during a concert by pop star Ariana Grande, who is popular with teenagers and pre-teens.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked with *

Cancel reply


Top News: Science

Hit "Like"
Don't miss any important news
Thanks, you don't need to show me this anymore.