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Resolving the Difference between Evolutionary Antecedents of Political Attitudes and Sources of Human Variation

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  03 November 2014

Adam Lockyer
Macquarie University
Peter K. Hatemi
Pennsylvania State University


Humans, despite the country they inhabit, the social structures they constitute, and the forms of governments they live under, universally possess political attitudes; that is, those attitudes towards sexual norms, out-groups, resource allocation, cooperation and fairness. It has been proposed that this near universal manifestation across societies remains ingrained in the psychological architecture of humans because of human evolution. However, there is enormous variation in political attitudes within and across populations, and this variation is not merely a function of social differences but derives, in part, through neurobiological differences within human populations. Thus, there is great confusion on the difference between what has evolved as universal, and what is due to individual variation. This confusion, results, in part on the lack of integration of the theoretical mechanisms that addresses how humans vary within evolutionarily adaptive universals. Here we seek to fill this lacuna by explicating how evolutionary biology and psychology account for the universal need for humans to have political attitudes while neurobiological differences account for variation within those evolved structures.


Les êtres humains, quel que soit le pays dans lequel ils habitent, les structures sociales qu'ils constituent et les formes de gouvernements dans lesquelles ils évoluent, possèdent, de façon universelle, des attitudes politiques : il s'agit des attitudes à l'égard des normes sexuelles, des hors groupes, de l'allocation des ressources, de la coopération et de l'équité. Il a été suggéré que cette manifestation quasi universelle dans les sociétés reste ancrée dans l'architecture psychologique des êtres humains en raison de l'évolution humaine. Cependant, on constate d'énormes variations en termes d'attitudes politiques parmi et entre les populations, et cette variation n'est pas uniquement fonction des différences sociétales, mais provient, en partie, de différences neurobiologiques au sein des populations humaines. Ainsi, il existe une grande confusion entre ce qui a évolué de façon universelle et ce qui est dû à la variation individuelle. Cette confusion conduit, en partie, au manque d'intégration des mécanismes théoriques qui examinent la façon dont les êtres humains évoluent dans des univers qui s'adaptent de façon évolutionniste. Nous cherchons ici à combler cette lacune en expliquant comment la biologie de l'évolution et la psychologie expliquent le besoin universel des êtres humains d'avoir des attitudes politiques, tandis que les différences neurobiologiques expliquent les variations au sein de ces structures qui ont évolué.

Research Article
Copyright © Canadian Political Science Association (l'Association canadienne de science politique) and/et la Société québécoise de science politique 2014 

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