Agonistic behavior

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As agonistic behavior ( Greek. : Agonistis = the doer, employment), and agonism in which is behavioral biology the totality of behaviors called, "with rivalry , competition and competitors are connected [...]. They not only include attacks associated with violence ( aggressiveness ), but also all behaviors that occur in disputes between adversaries - including those of defending, persisting, retreating or fleeing . "

Other elements of agonistic behavior include imposing behavior and threatening behavior as well as gestures of humility , the most well-known example of the latter being the appeasement signals in dogs . The so-called jumping movements can also belong to the agonistic behaviors. Agonistic behavior therefore includes "the entirety of all behaviors associated with the conflict between individuals."


According to Jochen Oehler, agonistic behavior occurs "as a rule in service or when enforcing and coping with other behavioral contexts", "in fear , in hopeless situations, in defending territory , in sexual rivalries and in various frustrations ". It often shows a high degree of ritualization , so that the risk of injury associated with a fight can be reduced, provided that all participants 'understand' the signals used in an argument called a comment fight.


Behavioral biologists now assume “that, due to the essential biological necessity to assert oneself against rivals or to gain appropriate resources, readiness for action for agonistic behavior is phylogenetic , which mature and are consolidated in the individual development .” An important evidence for The genetic anchoring of this willingness to act was the proof that the probability of occurrence of agonistic behavior can be changed through selective breeding : In an experiment with house mice , the offspring of the most aggressive individuals were paired with each other, with the result that the probability of occurrence could be increased over generations .

The historian Georg Scheibelreiter interprets the agonistic attitude of the West Germanic elites in the 5th – 8th centuries. Century as an expression of life under constant uncertainty. The feeling of being in constant danger led to brutal and insidious crimes, especially among the Merovingians , in order to gain short-term advantages in an opportunistic way or to physically eliminate potential opponents from competing aristocratic groups on mere suspicion, whereby the usual rituals and procedures were often overridden.

See also

Individual evidence

  1. a b Jochen Oehler : Why do people kill people? In: Biology in our time , Volume 40, No. 6, 2010, p. 405
  2. Klaus Immelmann (ed.): Behavioral research. Supplementary volume on Grzimek's animal life , Kindler Verlag, Zurich 1974, p. 621
  3. Jochen Oehler: Why do people kill people? P. 406.
  4. GA von Oortmerssen, Th. CM Bakker: Artifical selection for short and long attack latencies in wild Mus musculus domesticus. In: Behavior Genetics , Vol. 11, No. 2, 1981, pp. 115-126, doi : 10.1007 / BF01065622
  5. ^ Georg Scheibelreiter: The barbaric society. Darmstadt 1999, especially p. 215 ff.