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Research shows that war isn’t caused by instinct

Wednesday, December 26, 2007 | 9:19 a.m. CST; updated 4:37 p.m. CDT, Tuesday, July 22, 2008

When writing or speaking on issues of war and peace, it is not unusual for pundits and others to make the case that war is due primarily to a human instinct that causes nation-states to engage in large scale warfare. Underlying that idea is the notion that human beings have pugnacious inner drives that require an outlet for aggressive behavior if they are to achieve their full potential in a highly competitive world in which people have to dominate others to guarantee their own survival. This theory is often linked to the psychologically and physiologically induced fight-flight reaction process, which provides the necessary adrenaline rush when we are aggressively confronted or personally attacked and enables us to stand and fight or, alternatively, to quickly flee the scene. Conventional wisdom often cites this reaction as the underlying cause for the violent, deadly, large group activity called war.

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