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By bullying, I mean individuals harassing others with name-calling or violence but not for the purpose of gaining resources such as with extortion or theft. The only explanation I've thought of is that bullying offers practice for types of extortion that do result in increased resources.

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    $\begingroup$ What you might find interesting is now many domains of study can contribute to your answer. For example economics and culture might play a part in the onset of behaviors deemed oppressive or intimidating. $\endgroup$ – Gabriel Fair Mar 13 '15 at 1:50
  • $\begingroup$ Having an ennemi is the best way to have friends. bullying is a group activity and would possibly be performed so to increase the level of trust within a group of friends. $\endgroup$ – Remi.b Mar 13 '15 at 4:28
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    $\begingroup$ @AliceD please never ever suggest cross-posting. We try very hard to avoid duplicating questions on multiple SE sites. If a question can fit on both sites, it should be tweaked to ask for different aspects of the issue based on each site's scope, not repeated. $\endgroup$ – terdon Mar 13 '15 at 16:18
  • $\begingroup$ Asking for examples of bullying in species other than humans, and reasons/context for these behaviours will probably be more fruitful and easier to answer. This can hint at the evolutionary context for bullying in humans as well. Evolutionary “how” questions are usually extremely hard to answer. $\endgroup$ – fileunderwater Jul 22 at 8:40
  • $\begingroup$ @fileunderwater Well, the OP did mention namecalling, which implies interest in the evolution of human bullying. So a "human-centric" answer seems appropriate. Also bear in mind that any given trait can provide multiple benefits, and as such can arise for different reasons in different situations. Basically, bullying may have evolved in our species for slightly different reasons compared to why it did so in other species. Convergent evolution may favor bullying for many reasons, and so focusing on human bullying again, would not seem inappropriate. $\endgroup$ – SmugDoodleBug Jul 22 at 19:41
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I think bullying is really more of an emergent behavior that manifests itself because of natural aggression built in for survival, as well as our complex social-based psychology leading to insecurity when dealing with other:

  • People who are highly aggressive, and or apathetic to the suffering of others are more likely to control a majority of resources if they don't face significant opposition. This leads to their favored propagation obviously. Then, in their free-time, with all resources under control, they simply continue to do what comes naturally to them: dominating others. It can also work even in those without the ability to actually control resources, due to lack of intelligence for instance. I have met far more non-intelligent bullies than the reverse. The reason for their behavior is still explained by an attempt to control their territory and social status, however ineffective.

  • Again, due to our complex psychology centered around social interaction, we can develop insecurities about our self-perceived 'fitness', and therefore acceptance by mates and peers. This low self-esteem can lead to bullying others to boost one's ego. Chemically, this can result in a release of endorphins because they feel they have achieved something, which supports bullying behavior as an emergent behavior. Also, those with lower intelligence are likely to have trouble with reasoning skills, and therefore find it difficult to self-analyze and realize their behavior is negative. This leads to bad interactions with others, which can make those individuals feel even more insecure, which in turn fuels their drive to assert themselves through bullying.

Many studies have been conducted on sociopaths/psychopaths. Just like any other evolved trait, whether or not their "personality disorder" is beneficial to the propagation of their genes depends on environmental factors. If they face only opposition from entities that are relatively weak, physically and mentally, then they have an advantage over those peers. But if their peers are sufficiently strong and organized, then the personality disorder becomes a disadvantage if they can't adapt, because they will be attacked by those seeking cooperation from others when they misbehave. Obviously, when our species' numbers were few, high-aggression and a willingness to kill for resources needed for survival aided in survival. In these modern times, its less acceptable for socio/psychopaths to display their innate behavior, due to modern laws, but obviously society can take turns that allow them to express themselves without worry...see the holocaust or any other genocide for an example.

https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s40806-017-0097-5

https://www.google.com/url?sa=t&rct=j&q=&esrc=s&source=web&cd=2&cad=rja&uact=8&ved=2ahUKEwj5vKjk88bjAhUfJTQIHaFDA9wQFjABegQIARAC&url=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.apa.org%2Fpubs%2Fjournals%2Freleases%2Famp-a0038929.pdf&usg=AOvVaw1fUJiPHl8rSKMm6Gc9VEeA

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    $\begingroup$ Can you provide some references. $\endgroup$ – Jayachandran Mar 13 '15 at 3:04
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    $\begingroup$ While I do not have references of studies on this exact focus, I will post references tomorrow concerning the genetic propagation of genes leading to aggression, as well as references concerning the link between aggressive social behavior and genes, with aggression serving as a means of increasing genetic propagation. $\endgroup$ – SmugDoodleBug Mar 13 '15 at 3:13
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    $\begingroup$ Next time onwards please try to include references for your answers. Also feel free to use help centre for any assistance that you need in order to create a proper answer or a question. Your answer may be down voted if you are not providing any references for them, and it will affect your reputation(if you cares). :) $\endgroup$ – Jayachandran Mar 13 '15 at 6:33
  • $\begingroup$ It is extremely hard to prove a negative. $\endgroup$ – TheBlackCat Mar 13 '15 at 8:28
  • $\begingroup$ I find this answer very human-centric and it seems to be framing bullying a priori as “bad”. See e.g. statements on social insecurity and sociopaths. Given how common bullying is in human societies, across time, in different contexts and levels, I don’t think that is the most fruitful way to speculate on the evolutionary background. I doubt that bullying should be seen as an unfortunate side-effect, given how common similar behaviours are in other group-living/social animals, from apes to wolves and birds (e.g. poultry). $\endgroup$ – fileunderwater Jul 22 at 8:50

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