An Experimental and Evolutionary Approach to Human Territorial Behaviors


G. Stolyarov II

See Mr. Stolyarov's Index of Selected Writings, Originally Published on Associated Content / Yahoo! Voices.
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Note from the Author: This essay was originally written in 2004 and published on Associated Content (subsequently, Yahoo! Voices) in 2007, where it received over 370 page views. To preserve a record of my writings following the shutdown of Yahoo! Voices in 2014, I have given this article a permanent presence on this page.

~ G. Stolyarov II, July 28, 2014

What does evolutionary reasoning have to tell us about the territorial behaviors of humans today? Can we use evolution to explain why people have both physical and emotional "comfort zones" and why they exhibit different responses to various levels and kinds of noise in their environments?

To discover any interesting observations about human territorial behaviors, I conducted several elementary experiments. In the first experiment, the "comfort zone" of a stranger was breached by an experimenter who did not reveal the intent of his actions. The result was an uneasiness on the part of the stranger and an urge to get away from the experimenter. In terms of ultimate causation, this may serve as a preventive mechanism against aggressive behavior by others, as an individual who violates a "comfort zone" is unlikely to do so accidentally, given the usual abundance of space for humans to move about. If that individual is a stranger, he is not likely to have friendly intentions by encroaching on another's immediate proximity. Thus, an aversive reaction may increase wariness of such behavior and prompt a more instantaneous reaction that may be life-saving in the wilderness and thus increase an individual's chances of surviving to pass on his genes.

The second activity consisted of the movement of foreign items into another's territory without warning. This may also spark an averse impulsive reaction because, while, in a civilized environment, these objects may be books and papers, which are harmless, in the wilderness, where these instantaneous response mechanisms evolved, they are likely to be sticks, rocks, and spearpoints. The intrusion could also be interpreted as an assertion of dominance over the individual whose territory is being invaded, which would, in the wilderness, deprive him of the resources pertaining to that territory (including the elementary resource of space to put one's belongings in) and would rob him of the ability to efficiently dispose of his resources to assure his own survival and that of his offspring.

The third activity was a test of one's comfort in different environments. In the center of a crowded room, which was permeated by noise, I in fact found it easier to concentrate and mind my own business, since the noise originated from all sides and exhibited roughly the same intensity, and none of it seemed to be directed at me in particular. Thus, I did not view it as intruding upon my territory; it was merely a characteristic of the environment. However, once I relocated myself facing a wall, the noise overwhelmed me from one side, originating from the direction my back faced. To confront the noise, I constantly possessed the urge to turn around. Once I did so, I was somewhat relieved, though I did not possess the same comfort as in the center of the room. This indicates that in a relatively wild environment, an individual's survival interests are served by being prepared to respond to any unusual auditory disturbance, as this could imply the approach of a predator or a competitor from the same species. In terms of ultimate causation, this wariness could enable the individual to live and breed another day.

Another activity demonstrated that the concept of territoriality is not limited to physical space alone. So-called "emotional territoriality" is displayed when an individual is being stared at for no apparent reason or if he experiences certain abnormal activities in his vicinity, such as a stranger whispering to himself. The staring may signify a hostile intent on the stranger's behalf, as a predator must always focus on his prey before lunging at it, and other abnormalities may also bear the potential of being dangerous; caution is always to one's survival advantage when one is surrounded by an uncertain wilderness. Thus, humans have evolved a preference for familiar behaviors and norms of tact in their vicinity, which, because they are so frequent, are known to be safe and incorporated into one's "emotional territory." By ultimate causation, the cautious individual will be the one that lives to reproductive age and passes on his genes. Thus, these reflexes have been entrenched in generation after generation of human beings.

Gennady Stolyarov II (G. Stolyarov II) is an actuary, science-fiction novelist, independent philosophical essayist, poet, amateur mathematician, composer, and Editor-in-Chief of The Rational Argumentator, a magazine championing the principles of reason, rights, and progress. 

In December 2013, Mr. Stolyarov published Death is Wrong, an ambitious children’s book on life extension illustrated by his wife Wendy. Death is Wrong can be found on Amazon in paperback and Kindle formats.

Mr. Stolyarov has contributed articles to the Institute for Ethics and Emerging Technologies (IEET), The Wave Chronicle, Le Quebecois Libre, Brighter Brains Institute, Immortal Life, Enter Stage RightRebirth of Reason, The Liberal Institute, and the Ludwig von Mises Institute.

In an effort to assist the spread of rational ideas, Mr. Stolyarov published his articles on Associated Content (subsequently the Yahoo! Contributor Network and Yahoo! Voices) from 2007 until Yahoo! closed this venue in 2014. Mr. Stolyarov held the highest Clout Level (10) possible on the Yahoo! Contributor Network and was one of its Page View Millionaires, with over 3,175,000 views. Mr. Stolyarov’s selected writings from that era have been preserved on this page.

Mr. Stolyarov holds the professional insurance designations of Associate of the Society of Actuaries (ASA), Associate of the Casualty Actuarial Society (ACAS), Member of the American Academy of Actuaries (MAAA), Chartered Property Casualty Underwriter (CPCU), Associate in Reinsurance (ARe), Associate in Regulation and Compliance (ARC), Associate in Personal Insurance (API), Associate in Insurance Services (AIS), Accredited Insurance Examiner (AIE), and Associate in Insurance Accounting and Finance (AIAF).

Mr. Stolyarov has written a science fiction novel, Eden against the Colossus, a philosophical treatise, A Rational Cosmology,  a play, Implied Consent, and a free self-help treatise, The Best Self-Help is Free. You can watch his YouTube Videos.Mr. Stolyarov can be contacted at

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Learn about Mr. Stolyarov's novel, Eden against the Colossus, here.

Read Mr. Stolyarov's new comprehensive treatise, A Rational Cosmology, explicating such terms as the universe, matter, space, time, sound, light, life, consciousness, and volition, here.

Read Mr. Stolyarov's new four-act play, Implied Consent, a futuristic intellectual drama on the sanctity of human life, here.