Do humans exhibit territorial behavior like other primates? I have seen people sometimes stare at others -- notably males -- and then physical fights spontaneously turn up. Is this territorial? It seems it either goes two ways: One person looks at another; the other looks back and either looks away or both look away; or they both hold a stare until one or both erupt in to physical blows and try to dominate the other or fight/assault them. Is this a display of human territorial behavior? I know some chicks do it too.

I've also read that in males more so that staring can be an "alpha" or "dominating" gesture to others -- especially if a stare is held at one in response to them either turning away or provoking a fight.

This can be seen in every area, but possibly more so in clubs, bars, or certain social settings.

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    $\begingroup$ What you're describing is not territoriality, but dominance/aggression. $\endgroup$
    – jamesqf
    Commented Jun 20, 2018 at 18:43

2 Answers 2


From encyclopedia britannica

Territorial behaviour, in zoology, the methods by which an animal, or group of animals, protects its territory from incursions by others of its species.

Following, this definition, yes territorial behaviour exists in humans. Here are three simple examples drawn from different (western) cultures

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You seem to be confusing territorial behaviour with general, aggressive behaviour. Whether or not the behaviours you describe qualify as territorial behaviour requires one to make a psychological study to determine whether the individuals had a notion of territory that they wish to defend.


I'd argue that territoriality can be observed on many scales with humans. At the bar, 1-on-1 conversations with a spouse, between homes, between cultures, between parties during war, nations, the list goes on. It is also peculiar that humans seem to extend territoriality into abstract spaces, such as thoughts and ideologies.

I once read the 2010 book Supernormal Stimuli: How Primal Urges Overran Their Evolutionary Purpose by Deirdre Barrett which argues, details and very elegantly describes our instinctual, territorial tendencies in modern humans. I do not doubt that humans today follow instincts we evolved for our time spent in the African savannahs. The book explains other vestigial instincts too, which evolved and now exist in an artificial environment.

Take a look: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Supernormal_Stimuli


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