A just-published Canadian study has added heft to a provocative new theory about bullying: that the behaviour is literally in the genes, an inherited trait that actually helps build social rank and sex appeal.
If accepted, the hypothesis rooted in evolutionary psychology could transform how schools confront the persistent and often-shattering problem.
Conventional wisdom has long suggested that bullies are “maladapted,” troubled people, lashing out because they had been abused or harassed themselves or at least had dysfunctional home lives.
Most anti-bullying programs try to change the behaviour of bullies — and they usually don’t work, says Wong, ... That’s probably because the behaviour is biologically hard-wired, not learned, she says.
Wong recommends that, instead of trying to change how bullies think, schools expand the range of competitive, supervised activities they can participate in — giving them a less harmful channel for their dominating tendencies.
... a separate category, well-defined by psychologists, called bully-victims,...They are the ones who are troubled themselves and strike out in visible, blatant ways that quickly come to the attention of authorities, he said.
Evidence indicates it is the “pure” bullies, however, who account for 80-90% of bullying, yet are more socially adept, more popular and fly more under the radar, says Volk.
“What they really are is people driven for status.” [emphasis mine]
This reminds me of psychology research on men who join rebel groups which specialize in assaulting villages, stealing, raping and killing for a living. After adopting the violent predatory lifestyle, the men felt empowered, they had strong self-esteem, enjoyed life more and weren't depressed. Giving themselves over to their worst possibilities felt so good that ordinary life couldn't compete.
Paul MacLean found bullying actions in reptiles, it's hard wired into our reptile brains.