Understanding Genocide: The Social Psychology of the Holocaust

By Leonard S. Newman; Ralph Erber | Go to book overview

9
The Zoomorphism of Human
Collective Violence
R. B. Zajonc

Sociobiology must be counted as one of the big ideas of our times. New understanding of some fundamental aspects of social behavior, such as cooperation, altruism, or dominance, came from the premises of sociobiology. These complex social phenomena are explained by invoking the concept of inclusive fitness, a force of nature that promotes the perpetuation of our genes—our own and that of our own species. Broad and profound scientific, philosophical, and pragmatic consequences were drawn from sociobiology. Its notions were absorbed not only by physiologists, geneticists, and molecular biologists but also by anthropologists, historians, political scientists, and, of course, psychologists. In fact, the fields of evolutionary psychology and evolutionary social psychology were spawned by the intellectual ferment created by the principles of inclusive fitness and reproductive success.

Based on these ideas, a number of bold implications deriving from the concepts of sociobiology and evolutionary psychology have been drawn in the scholarly domain—implications that were very rapidly echoed in the popular press and other media, most often in a simplified and vulgarized form. Thus, the Columbine High School shooting was explained in Newsweek by the genetically fixed urge to eliminate competitors for offspring, citing as culprit the cingulate gyrus, a brain structure that is apparently active in juvenile aggression (Begley, 1999). And in a recent book, Thornhill and Palmer (2000) treat rape as a natural phenomenon, merely an expression of the innate tendency to disperse the rapists' genes. Even genocide has become subject to sociobiological explanation. This chapter questions the widespread and often uncritical applications of sociobiological principles to the explanation of collective violence, which in the twentieth century alone produced by some estimates, over 100 million civilian deaths. It argues that the enthusiasm is at best premature and the evidence scant.

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Understanding Genocide: The Social Psychology of the Holocaust
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page *
  • Preface *
  • Contents ix
  • Contributors xi
  • Understanding Genocide *
  • Introduction 3
  • Notes 7
  • Part I - Becoming a Perpetrator 10
  • 1 - The Psychology of Bystanders, Perpetrators, and Heroic Helpers 11
  • Notes *
  • References *
  • 2 - The Person Versus the Situation in Goldhagen's Hitler's Willing Executioners 43
  • Notes *
  • References *
  • 3 - Some Cognitive and Affective Implications 68
  • References *
  • 4 - An Evaluation of Stanley Milgram's Perspective, the Most Influential Social-Psychological Approach to the Holocaust 91
  • Notes *
  • References *
  • Part II - Beyond the Individual: Groups and Collectives 111
  • 5 - Envious Prejudice, Ideology, and the Scapegoating of Jews 113
  • Notes 140
  • References *
  • 6 - Group Processes and the Holocaust 143
  • Notes *
  • References *
  • 7 - Examining the Implications of Cultural Frames on Social Movements and Group Action 162
  • References *
  • 8 - Preconditions for the Holocaust from a Control-Theoretical Perspective 188
  • Notes *
  • References *
  • 9 - The Zoomorphism of Human Collective Violence 222
  • Notes *
  • References *
  • Part III - Dealing with Evil 240
  • 10 - The Holocaust and the Four Roots of Evil 241
  • References *
  • 11 - Examining Hitler from a Social-Psychological Perspective 259
  • Notes *
  • References 280
  • 12 - Lying Self-Deception and Belief Change 285
  • References *
  • 13 - Does Social Psychology Exonerate the Perpetrators? 301
  • References *
  • 14 - Social Psychologists Confront the Holocaust 325
  • Note *
  • References *
  • Author Index 347
  • General Index 355
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