# intelligence & aggression

#### strantor

Joined Oct 3, 2010
6,040
Anybody noticed a correlation between intelligence & aggression? Killer whales; I've heard that they tie apes for the second smartest animal, and are also the only animals (other than people) known to kill for the pleasure of it. Apes; frequently maul eachother, and people. It seems the smarter breeds of dogs are also the ones known for aggression. And of course people, the most aggressive. Seems that the only species which are totally docile are also the stupidest.

this thought was brought about by observing my mother's cat. It is the smartest cat I have seen, and also the most ill tempered. It has a personality, really. If you do something to anger it, it will not forget; it will stay mad at you. it will sit across the room and scowl at you for hours. If you then take your shoes off, it will wait until you turn your back or leave the room, and then go and take a #2 on your shoes. It displays obvious hatred and vengence; I've never seen anything like it in an animal.

Joined Apr 30, 2011
1,581
The cat is evil and probably demonically possessed. You should prove to it that you're more intelligent than it is by a display of superior aggression... if you know what I mean.

#### strantor

Joined Oct 3, 2010
6,040
The cat is evil and probably demonically possessed. You should prove to it that you're more intelligent than it is by a display of superior aggression... if you know what I mean.
I can't really argue against the cat being possessed. I've thought the same from time to time. If it were my cat I would have intelligently sent it on a magic burlap sack ride down the river with a brick for company.

#### joeyd999

Joined Jun 6, 2011
4,477
It seems the smarter breeds of dogs are also the ones known for aggression.
Top 4 Dogs (intelligence):

Border Collie
Poodle
German Shepherd Dog
Golden Retriever

Of these, only one is (erroneously) "known for aggression". The GSD.

I train GSDs as a hobby, including Protection, Tracking, Obedience, SAR and apprehension. I will far sooner have a well bred and trained GSD near my 4 y.o. daughter than a Chiwawa.

Joined Dec 26, 2010
2,148
Some psychologists have suggested an opposite correlation, that is to say that for humans at least, low intelligence may be linked to aggression. That said, the results of studies looking into this actually seem rather mixed. If you want to, you could probably spend as long as you like looking into this, but don't expect a clear answer. Personally, I think it is simplistic to argue that because carnivores require intelligence to catch their food, and most intelligent animals are carnivores, there must be a simple link between intelligence and aggression. To begin with, intelligence is required for other activities than killing prey, and aggressive action is not confined to predation.

Consider the struggles for dominance in mating, which are just as important for non-carnivores. Whether any animal actually kills for pleasure is an interesting question, but fights to the death over such dominance are not that rare in herd animals. Aggression is also very prevalent in animals which are really not noted for their intelligence, like bulls for example.

In human beings too, the link between aggression and intelligence is not so clear. People with high academic qualifications are not so common among those convicted for murder and grievous bodily harm - is this simply because they are so smart that they get away with it? On the other hand, poorly educated, illiterate, and even frankly sub-normal people are more commonly convicted of these crimes. Of course, there are other forms of aggression requiring more mental input, as we see in business and politics, crimes of deception and fraud, and perhaps in commanding armies, rather than being violent in person.

Violent thugs often do appear to be quite dim-witted though, and it is possible that it is just this dullness that allows their aggressive impulses to go unchecked, without too much concern for the consequences of their actions on themselves or anyone else. It may also be that they are violent because they lack the abilities to succeed in other ways. Certainly, the aggression often seen in people under the influence of alcohol or drugs is understood to be connected with loss of higher functions in the brain. An individual in this condition does not have enhanced intelligence! Similar behaviour is seen in people with some forms of brain damage.

Altogether, this is a complex situation. While it seems quite plausible that that intelligence may have evolved in a more advanced way among aggressive predators, I'm not convinced that we should take this as evidence that the two qualities are simply linked in human beings.

#### justtrying

Joined Mar 9, 2011
438
we don't know anything about ourselves, how can we figure out other species? Take orcas - highly intelligent, social animals. The acts of aggression from orcas, as observed by humans, were mostly seen in animals in distress i.e. in captivity, at least I haven't found a credible source of it in the wild. When the human animal gets involved things usually go bad.

There is a lot of interesting research on the politically incorrect subject of intelligence and aggression and how it varies across races. Yes, we are biologically and genetically different. Marco Polo was amazed at what he found in Asia when he thought that Europe was oh so advanced, while both Arabic traders and Europeans many hundreds of years past found Africa in basically the same state. There are many completely conflicting theories about how our brain came to evolve - was it the pressure to survive the climate change or was it the competition for mates? is aggression tightly linked to how our brain functions or is it completely hormone driven? One thing that has been shown is that empathy plays a big role and that is a social factor. The altruistic part of us that I suspect will disappear soon as everyone is getting plugged into a power outlet... I wish us luck.

p.s. cats are selfish and all of them have that trait that you describe. No big surprise there...

#### strantor

Joined Oct 3, 2010
6,040
Would any argue that empathy is not a trained/learned trait? Both in the case of humans and dogs as discussed. In humans, it is true, the stupider seem to be the more aggressive. Could this be because we learn empathy, and that's where their problem is (in learning)? Dogs as well; if a band of untrained german sheperds were let loose in the wild and you went back many years later and plucked one of their offspring, would that not be a more aggressive dog than a chihuahua in the absence of training? It would basically be a wolf. I believe this would be true for any of the 4 dog breeds listed. I've heard that poodles, despite their puny & plush appearance can be especially nasty if not trained.
When I referred to killer whales (orcas) I was referring to them in the wild. There is video footage out there of them playing football with sea lion pups. Killing them with glee and leaving their bodies floating.

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#### Zazoo

Joined Jul 27, 2011
114
Would any argue that empathy is not a trained/learned trait? Both in the case of humans and dogs as discussed.
To have empathy an animal requires a fairly developed brain - one capable of self-awareness at the very least. I think this makes it necessarily a learned trait as even human newborns require several months to gain self-awareness.

In humans, it is true, the stupider seem to be the more aggressive. Could this be because we learn empathy, and that's where their problem is (in learning)?

I'm not sure if stupidity/intelligence is the right word where humans are concerned. I'd say it's emotional maturity that really determines something like how aggressive a person is.

Intellectual development can certainly lead to emotional maturity, but I don't think it is the only factor. Personal experience, social integration and mental health are equally as important.

Just my 2 cents.

#### THE_RB

Joined Feb 11, 2008
5,438
To have empathy an animal requires a fairly developed brain - one capable of self-awareness at the very least.
...
Empathy is a low level behaviour and most animals do it very well. All pets get very upset, concerned and caring when another pet or human family member is sick. I would say the opposite, empathy is not a high level intellectual behaviour but a very low level instinctive emotional behaviour that even critters with tiny brains like mice etc all have.

Re aggression, I've noticed only negative evaluations of aggression in the thread so far? Aggressive behaviour is neither good nor bad. Excessive or unjustified aggression is a flaw that hurts a creature, especially a higher level creature in a social environment.

But failure to respond with justified and appropriate aggression also hurts a creature, allowing it to be unjustly killed, dominated, wiped out, assimilated etc.

Intelligence goes a long way toward knowing when either aggression or submission can be the correct response, but ultimately it may come down to the level of self control the intelligent creature has. We don't always choose a course of action that is most intelligent, in fact the vast majority of humans make choices based on habits they learned from parents and in life, and other poor choices based on lack of self control or social conditioning.

And if a human does achieve a very high level of emotional/self control and decision making they are usually criticised as socially disfunctional, aloof, and possibly classified as an abnormal like a psychopath or an antisocial personality type...

#### maxpower097

Joined Feb 20, 2009
816
Actually apes aren't big on war and murder. Chimpanzee's are. They found Chimps are the only other creature on earth that raids other chimp families, and kills for pleasure. I though the smartest animal was a dolphin?

#### maxpower097

Joined Feb 20, 2009
816
Cats are only semi domesticated. They will always have a wild streak in em. Thats why theres so many mean azzed cats out there.

#### joeyd999

Joined Jun 6, 2011
4,477
if a band of untrained german sheperds were let loose in the wild and you went back many years later and plucked one of their offspring, would that not be a more aggressive dog than a chihuahua in the absence of training?
I won't disagree with you. Any feral animal is going to have a natural fear of humans. And they are going to express avoidance and/or aggression when confronted (fight/flight). This is a natural instinct in many animals. They may also be hungry!

My beef with those who think GSDs are naturally (inappropriately) aggressive, or wolf-like, are wholly misinformed as to the history and purpose of the GSD.

The GSD is one of the most recent breeds on this planet. It was developed specifically to be a companion animal to human beings, and to guard flocks of sheep. A farmer would stand to lose a lot if his shepherd was naturally aggressive (he would lose his flock to the dog!).

The problem with many GSDs today (especially in the US) is bad breeding. You may call a dog you see a German Shepherd because it *looks* like one, but that doesn't make it so. In Germany, a dog ain't a GSD until a judge says so, and the dog gets a title to reflect that it possesses the traits* that a proper GSD is supposed to have.

*EDIT: The traits I am speaking of are genetic, not learned. These traits are developed and expressed through training, but if the dog ain't got the genes, no amount of training can make him a (proper) GSD!

#### strantor

Joined Oct 3, 2010
6,040
So I guess its one of those things that can't be boiled down to a simple black and white answer. The distinction is blurred by finer details. Well, anyways it was a fun exercise of thought. Thanks for the input.

#### strantor

Joined Oct 3, 2010
6,040
Cats are only semi domesticated. They will always have a wild streak in em. Thats why theres so many mean azzed cats out there.
Yeah I agree, and it makes me wonder about these people who keep big cats (lions, tigers, ligers, etc) as pets. Not only those idiots who seek exotic pets, but zoo & preserve handlers who get all cuddly with 300lb cats. My mom's cat will be all affectionate and let you scratch and pet it, until it becomes bored of being loved on and decides to bite into your hand. Now let a friggin liger do that; it's closer to wild than a n$$^{th}$$ generation domestic house cat.

#### magnet18

Joined Dec 22, 2010
1,227
OK, after reading this it appears to me that the more intelligent species are Capable of more aggression.
That is to say, when it becomes necessary for their survival/success, then because they are intelligent, they are more successful at being aggressive.

#### joeyd999

Joined Jun 6, 2011
4,477
OK, after reading this it appears to me that the more intelligent species are Capable of more aggression.
That is to say, when it becomes necessary for their survival/success, then because they are intelligent, they are more successful at being aggressive.
I think this is the correct answer.

Referring back to dogs, Many (untrained) dogs may take an aggressive stance when confronted, but about 90% will try to escape rather than fight.

The dumb ones will stick around when confronted with an unwinnable situation. The smart trained ones know how not to lose.

#### Zazoo

Joined Jul 27, 2011
114
Empathy is a low level behaviour and most animals do it very well. All pets get very upset, concerned and caring when another pet or human family member is sick. I would say the opposite, empathy is not a high level intellectual behaviour but a very low level instinctive emotional behaviour that even critters with tiny brains like mice etc all have.
Aggression and empathy are very broad terms with definitions that depend on context. I took the context of this discussion to be higher functioning animals, with aggression implying malice, and empathy implying self-other identification. (i.e. psychological)
My mistake if the discussion was intended to be broader in scope.

Also I should point out that brain size is not the only determining factor for cognitive ability and self-awareness.

#### maxpower097

Joined Feb 20, 2009
816
I won't disagree with you. Any feral animal is going to have a natural fear of humans. And they are going to express avoidance and/or aggression when confronted (fight/flight). This is a natural instinct in many animals. They may also be hungry!
Wouldn't take years, just remember Katrina. Anyhow that said any untrained wild pack of shepards will be mean as heck because their a highly aggresive dog. Like #3 of all breeds.

#### joeyd999

Joined Jun 6, 2011
4,477
Wouldn't take years, just remember Katrina. Anyhow that said any untrained wild pack of shepards will be mean as heck because their a highly aggresive dog. Like #3 of all breeds.
Again, a properly bred Shepherd is *not*, by design, a highly (inappropriately) aggressive dog! This is a misnomer based upon experience with badly bred dogs.

A dog pack, on the other hand, will be far more aggressive only because the members gain confidence from each other (they will prefer fight to flight), and will perceive a threat as being against their kin (aside from the territorial aspects). This is a survival instinct, and goes for all breeds, not just Shepherds.

Think of an individual human being vs. a mob.

#### maxpower097

Joined Feb 20, 2009
816
My point was even house dogs were attacking cows durring katrina to get food. A dog will turn wild in months if hungry. Shepards are highly aggressive dogs. Just look at bite statistics. If you do the math you'll find your more likely to get bit by a shepard then a pit. And for someone who used to deliver pizza's I can confirm this!! Pits were always sweet but a handful. Labs the people didn't even have to restrain they would just stand there. Jack Russles and yippie dogs did just that. But shepards were about 50% and even the "good" ones the owners wouldn't let you get near em. Lots of em out there but not too many friendly ones. This could in part be because the dog is very smart and hard to train properly, and it doesn't have the playful lab/pit personality.