Adaptations for Exploitation

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Human groups contain reproductively relevant resources that differ greatly in their ease of accessibility. The authors advance a conceptual framework for the study of 2 classes of adaptations that have been virtually unexplored: (a) adaptations for exploitation designed to expropriate the resources of others through deception, manipulation, coercion, intimidation, terrorization, and force and (b) antiexploitation adaptations that evolved to prevent one from becoming a victim of exploitation. As soon as adaptations for exploitation evolved, they would immediately select for coevolved antiexploitation defenses—adaptations in target individuals, their kin, and their social allies designed to prevent their becoming a victim of exploitation. Antiexploitation defenses, in turn, created satellite adaptive problems for those pursuing a strategy of exploitation. Selection would favor the evolution of anticipatory and in situ solutions designed to circumvent the victim's defenses and minimize the costs of pursuing an exploitative strategy. Adaptations for exploitation have design features sensitive to the group dynamics in which they are deployed, including status hierarchies, social reputation, and the preferential selection of out-group victims.

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