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Information on Denmark:
Population: 5.5 million
Capital: Copenhagen
Subsistence: Industrial
Government: Parliamentary Democracy
Religion: Lutheran

Aarhus, Denmark
Copenhagen, Denmark


Anger and politics: collaboration with Aarhus University in Denmark

Denmark is a developed industrialised country in Western Europe. By international standards, the standard of living is high, and the differences between rich and poor are smaller than in many of the countries with which Denmark is traditionally compared.  The Danes have their own language (Danish) and the vast majority of the population has been baptised into the established protestant church.  Denmark is therefore nationally and culturally very homogeneous.  The form of government is a parliamentary democracy with a royal head of state.  The system of production is capitalist (economic liberalism) with private ownership of businesses and production.  The state and other public authorities, however, exercise a considerable regulatory control and provide comprehensive services for the citizens.  Denmark is a member of the European Union.

The Department of Political Science at Aarhus University was founded in 1959 and it is the oldest of its kind in Denmark. In addition, it is also one of the largest departments of political science in Europe with its staff of 45 full time scientific employees, 22 PhD students and 1,700 students. Add to this several other scientific employees as well as an administrative staff of 20 people. The department delivers research and education of the highest standards within all of the primary fields of political science.  In 2002, the department was ranked as fifth best political science department in Europe.

Michael Bang Petersen, an Associate Professor at the Department of Political Science in Aarhus University, has been a visiting scholar at the Center for Evolutionary Psychology at the University of California, Santa Barbara, and collaborated with Aaron Sell, John Tooby and Leda Cosmides on the functional connections between evolved anger mechanism and attitudes on criminal justice and punishment.  Collectively, they have designed and run studies with thousands of subjects in Denmark measuring relationships between the basic computational structure of punishment and anger as well as cultural and individual differences.

Ongoing projects include:
    1). The origin of political attitudes and the computational structure of punishment.
    2). The computational structure of collective punishment and its relation to welfare tradeoff ratios (WTRs) and dyadic anger.
    3). The role of physical strength and attractiveness in anger and political attitudes.
    4). A cross-cultural analysis of latent and explicit meanings of insults and their relation to cultural norms and values.

Papers that have resulted from this collaboration:
Petersen, M.B, Sznycer, D., Sell, A., Cosmides, L., and Tooby, J. (2012). The ancestral logic of politics: upper body strength regulates men's assertion of self-interest over economic redistribution. Psychological Science, in press.

Petersen, M.B., Sell, A., Tooby, J., and Cosmides, L. (2012). To punish or repair? Evolutionary psychology and lay intuitions about modern criminal justice. Evolution and Human Behavior, 33(6), 682-695. (.pdf)

Petersen, M.B., Sell, A., Tooby, J., and Cosmides, L. (2010).  "Evolutionary Psychology and Criminal Justice: A Recalibrational Theory of Punishment and Reconciliation" in Høgh-Olesen, H. (Ed.) Human Morality and Sociality, Palgrave Macmillan. (.pdf)

Presentations that have resulted from this collaboration:

Sell, A. “Formidability and the logic of anger.” UQ Evolutionary Psychology Group, University of Queensland. Brisbane, Australia, May. 2012.

Petersen, M.B. Formidability in modern politics: How evolved mechanisms for conflict-negotiation shape attitudes towards redistribution. Sixty-Seventh Midwest Political Science Association's Annual National Conference. Chicago, 2009.

Petersen, M.B. "Formidability in modern politics: The Biological Basis of Political Attitudes and Behavior." Midwest Political Science Association Annual National Conference. Bloomington, IL, 2010.


Aaron Sell
School of Criminology and Criminal Justice
176 Messines Ridge Road
Griffith University, Mount Gravatt
Mount Gravatt, QLD 4121, Australia
Michael Bang Petersen
Department of Political Science,
University of Aarhus
DK-8000 Aarhus C,