- Some scientists now think road rage and other personal space disputes â€“ neighbor feuds over intrusive flora or spats with gym hogs who won't let others work in â€“ boil up from responses selected by evolution to protect resources and ensure survival of the species. Recent findings in the field of evolutionary psychology suggest that a mandate to defend turf is at the root of some of the species' most irrational and violent behavior: jealousy, assaults, murder.
"Humans have developed adaptations to prevent people from encroaching on our stuff," says David M. Buss, whose latest book, "The Murderer Next Door," examines how these changes, such as territorial mate-guarding and jealousy, play a role in homicides. The impulses are part of a survival program designed to make us react first and think later, if at all.
"When someone cuts us off on the road, it triggers an ancient evolved adaptation to protect social reputation," Buss says. "People become known as the kind who won't take any ... or the kind you can exploit with impunity. If the person fails to respond to the trespass, then it signals exploitability. It tells the trespasser that he/she can trespass in the future."
More than a bruised ego is at stake. People who are "exploitable" might be less likely to attract a mate and propagate â€“ the mandate behind most territorial behavior, Buss says.
What youíre really angry about
When another driver cuts you off and you honk like mad, what are you really angry about? Is it that you could have been hurt or your car could have been smashed? Perhaps something more primal is at work: