Judith Hand

Judith L. Hand, Ph.D.
Born (1940-02-04) February 4, 1940
Cherokee, Oklahoma, United States
Occupation Author (fiction and nonfiction)
Nationality American
Alma mater Wheaton College, Wheaton, IL
University of California at Los Angeles
Subject Animal Behavior
Conflict Resolution
Gender Differences in Aggression

Judith L. Hand is an evolutionary biologist, animal behaviorist (ethologist), novelist, and pioneer in the emerging field of peace ethology. She writes on a variety of topics related to ethology, including the biological and evolutionary roots of war, gender differences in conflict resolution, empowering women, and abolishing war. Her lectures include recent developments in peace research, which may help us prevent war.

Her book, Women, Power, and the Biology of Peace[1] is an in-depth exploration of human gender differences with regard to aggression. Her web site, A Future Without War,[2] a book by the same name,[3] and a paper, To Abolish War.[4] are devoted to the concept of and requirements for abolishing war. The website provides an extensive collection of essays and book reviews, issues a topical newsletter, includes a blog, and is a gateway to other related sites.

Hand has been a member of the International Society for Human Ethology (ISHE), since its inception in 1972. ISHE is a professional organization whose members study human behavior and come from such diverse disciplines as biology, anthropology and psychology. The term "peace ethology" was coined by ethologist, Peter Verbeek, as a subdiscipline of human ethology, one that is concerned with issues of human conflict, conflict resolution, reconciliation, war, peacemaking, and peacekeeping behavior.[5]

Verbeek suggests that peace ethology is uniquely positioned to make an important contribution to the newly emerging science of peace.[5] Recent studies show that young children display peacemaking behavior that is remarkably similar in form and timing to peacemaking observed in non-human primates and other animals.[5] In the past, researchers assumed that peace emerges, almost by default, when violence or aggression ceases. Studies on the behavioral biology of aggression emphasized what led up to and happened during competition and aggression. Few studies investigated what happened afterwards.[5] In 1979, Frans de Waal and Marc van Roosmalen found that chimpanzee opponents tend to seek each other out for peaceful contact shortly after aggression has ceased. Three decades of studies indicate that peacemaking, like aggression, is a natural aspect of primate social behavior. Peace is now seen as a concept worthy of study in its own right.[5]

Hand is a social activist committed to the abolition of war. Her argument for the ability of humans to achieve this goal is developed in Women, Power, and the Biology of Peace[1] and her website.[2] Her argument rests on several controversial premises: 1) that while the roots of war do lie in aspects of male biology, war itself is not an inherited and therefore inescapable feature of human behavior, but instead is primarily the result of cultural factors; 2) that women are natural allies of nonviolent conflict resolution, and that excluding women from governing is an underlying condition that favors war because male inclinations for dominance using aggression go unchecked; 3) that to abolish war, a key requirement is the global empowerment of women (educational, financial, legal, political and religious). Other requirements for abolishing war and how long such a campaign might take are also explained on her website and in the paper, To Abolish War.[4]

Education and Research

From 1967 to 1975, Hand taught high school biology at Santa Monica High School in Santa Monica, CA. While still teaching, she began a Ph.D. program at UCLA and in 1979 was awarded a Ph.D. in Animal Behavior, also called Ethology (her subfields were Ornithology and Primatology). Her doctoral dissertation compared vocalizations of two populations of gulls (Larus occidentalis), and the results were used to reclassify the gull population in the Gulf of California as a separate species, (Larus livens), not just a subspecies of Larus occidentalis.

After completing her doctorate, she continued behavioral research as a Smithsonian Post-doctoral Fellow at the National Zoo in Washington, D.C. (1979–1980). This research resulted in published papers on conflict resolution highlighting the use of egalitarian behavior to resolve conflicts. For example, mated gull pairs in conflict over nesting duties or access to choice food used such methods as sharing, first-come-first-served, and negotiation rather than the commonly studied dominance and subordination behavior to resolve conflicts.[6] Female gulls of the species she studied are always smaller than their mates. In her theoretical paper in the Quarterly Review of Biology (Vol. 61, 1986) she used a game theory approach to introduce the concept of “leverage” to explain why smaller individuals are sometimes able to establish an egalitarian relationship with much larger individuals, ones that could easily dominate them physically.[7] This paper also introduced the concept of “spheres of dominance” to explain why, in a given relationship between two individuals, the relative payoffs to survival or reproduction depends on the context of a conflict. Different contexts will provide different payoffs to each individual and consequently determine which individual of the pair will be dominant in a given context, instead of one individual being dominant over the other in all contexts.

From 1980 to 1985, she was a Research Associate and Lecturer in the UCLA biology department teaching Animal Behavior and Ornithology. In 1987, she moved from Los Angeles to San Diego and spent several years writing fiction.

In 2003, however, she returned to ethology and self-published Women, Power, and the Biology of Peace. The book draws from fields as diverse as evolutionary biology, primatology, behavior, ornithology, cultural anthropology, neurophysiology, and history. Hand has expanded concepts from Women, Power, and the Biology of Peace into essays on her website site, AFutureWithoutWar.org.[2]

Education and Work History

Hand earned a B.S. degree from Wheaton College, Wheaton, Illinois, in 1961, graduating summa cum laude, having majored in cultural anthropology before switching to zoology. In 1963, she earned an M.A. degree in general physiology at UCLA, after which she briefly worked as a laboratory technician at UCLA’s Brain Research Institute. In 1963-1964, Hand was a research technician at the Max Planck Institute for Neuropsychiatry in Munich, Germany, where she assisted in brain surgeries designed to evoke vocalizations in squirrel monkeys; she published her first scientific papers on these behavioral experiments.[8][9] From 1965 through 1966, at the Pediatrics Department of the UCLA Medical School, she was head technician in a physiological laboratory studying bilirubin metabolism.

Fiction: Strong Heroines in Historical Epics and Action Thrillers

After moving from Los Angeles to San Diego in 1987, Hand turned her attention to writing fiction. In 2001, she self-published the novel Voice of the Goddess.[10] In her book Women, Power, and the Biology of Peace, Hand states that she was subsequently drawn back into the subject of war and women while promoting this book. The novel’s background is the Minoan Culture which Hand portrays as woman-centered, goddess-worshipping, and without wars of aggression, a view she considers valid but which remains controversial.

In 2004, two of her novels were published by New York publishing houses, the first, an historical epic set against the background of the Trojan War[11] and the second, a contemporary women’s action adventure.[12] More published novels soon followed; all featuring strong heroines struggling in epic conflicts in partnership with equally strong heroes.[13][14][15]

Nonfiction: Arguments on the Evolution of War vs. the Evolution of Peace

Definition of War

When examining the reasons humans kill one another, Hand draws a distinction between war, murder and revenge killings. She uses the definition of war as described by the anthropologist Douglas P. Fry: armed conflict between groups where combatants kill members of the other group indiscriminately[16] Murder is not war, nor is feuding (or self-redress) where revenge or punishment is exacted on specific individuals.

Biological Roots of War

Hand argues that the biological roots of war stem from three aspects of male biology, each a holdover from the Pleistocene: 1) the strong tendency for aggressive male group bonding that serves for many kinds of hunting, for group defense from predators, and for survival during natural disasters; 2) the establishment of social hierarchy, using force if necessary; and 3) willingness of males in a group to sacrifice themselves to protect the group, in some cases even to the death.[1] Hand coined the term “hyper-alpha” for a category of individual, male or female, who so desires to dominate others that they are willing to kill or to raise an army to kill other people for them.[1] These three characteristically male traits, which served us well during our prehistoric past, can be used to our detriment by a “hyper-alpha” (a male, group of males, or rarely a female). Unless the group or culture erects restraints on warmongering, hyper-alphas can use these traits to manipulate other males so as to raise an army and go to war.[1] Hyper-alphas are, according to Hand, a small minority in any population, and they are not to be confused with leaders sometimes described as alpha males. Hyper-alphas are defined by their willingness to kill any number of anonymous individuals to achieve domination.[1]

Female Preference for Social Stability

The most common cultural adaptation of human populations during the long and early phases of our evolution was that of nomadic hunter-gatherers.[17] In Women, Power, and the Biology of Peace, Hand argues that a critical element in keeping war in check among these nomadic hunter-gatherer groups was a strong female preference for "social stability." This evolved female preference for social stability is expressed in a number of traits more characteristic of women than men. Most especially with respect to war, in a strong female proclivity for negotiation, compromise, “keeping the peace,” and mediation—as opposed to killing—to resolve differences. This preference is also reflected in a greater female tendency toward prospicience—a forward looking attitude which fosters anticipating and heading off potential conflicts.[1] In most nomadic hunter-gatherer cultures, which are typically egalitarian cultures,[17] women have strong influences in deciding group behavior. Hand suggests that the female preference for social stability tends to suppress both male inclinations to make war and any other social turmoil within their group that risks the death of women or their offspring.[1]

Bonobos as a Social Model for Humans

She suggests, based on behavior and physical traits of the relatively non-violent bonobo (Pan paniscus), such as hidden-ovulation (there are no outward signs of a female's fertile period), forward placed clitoris, and continuous receptivity (females can mate at any time during theirestrous or menstrual cycle), that bonobos are a better model for students of human evolution than the highly aggressive and sometimes violent chimpanzee (Pan troglodytes).[1] Women, Power, and the Biology of Peace outlines the selection pressures favoring the female preference for social stability and the implications of the difference in male and female responses with respect to physical violence and war for contemporary cultures.

Effects of Settled Living

A survey by anthropologist Douglas Fry (The Human Potential for Peace: An Anthropological Challenge to Assumptions about War and Violence), determined that while nomadic hunter-gathers are generally egalitarian in nature and nonviolent (including non-warring), settled or "complex" hunter-gatherers tend to develop hierarchical social structure and female subjugation.[17] Many such complex hunter-gatherers also make war. Hand expands on Fry to conclude that a key culprit in the evolution of warfare was settled living and the subsequent loss of power for women, who are the natural proponents of nonviolent conflict resolution. These characteristics of settled hunter-gatherers—the development of hierarchy, the subjugation of women, and the emergence of war—were greatly exacerbated, Hand argues, by wholesale settlement that accompanied the Agricultural Revolution, and they continue to the present.

Although war has ancient biological roots, Hand argues that it is currently fostered primarily by our social environments—by our cultures.[1] War can be abolished if humanity is willing to engage in major cultural transformation. On Her website, AFutureWithoutWar (AFWW),[2] Hand explores nine “cornerstones of a plan of action to create a "warfare transition,” that is, a shift toward abolishing war that could be as swift as the demographic transition of the mid-twentieth century.

"Hidden Females Syndrome"

In Women, Power, and the Biology of Peace Hand coins the term “hidden females syndrome” for the tendency among scholars and lay people alike to overlook women when researching or writing about the human condition with respect to war and other subjects.[1] She argues that this blindness to female significance and dismissal of female input hinders any full understanding of why and how we engage in wars.


To summarize Hand’s position: When women are excluded from decision-making or conflict-resolving situations (whether this is within the home, the community or at state levels), male proclivities for domination, up to and including domination by violence and threats of violence, are expressed unchecked and untempered by female proclivities for more nonviolent, win-win solutions. With respect to war, the results of unchecked male proclivities are demonstrated by the historical record of relentless warring. Hope for abolishing war must include reempowerment of women as full partners with men so that female preferences for nonviolence can be an equally powerful shaper of our group behavior, serving as a check on using physical violence and thereby serving as a positive influence for our future. She writes, lectures, and networks in efforts to mobilize leaders, academics, and lay people to begin a campaign to ultimately abolish war.


Judith Leon (née Latta) Hand was born in Cherokee, Oklahoma, the daughter of John Leon Latta & Wanda Hazel Latta (1914–1994). Her father, a successful restaurateur, died when she was nine; her mother, a registered nurse, raised Hand and her younger sister alone. Hand graduated from Torrance High School in Torrance, California, in 1957. In 1967, she married Los Angeles police detective, Harold M. Hand, and remained married to him until his death in 1996. They had no children.

See also






Honors or Awards


Selected Fiction Awards



"Because of genetic inclinations that are as deeply rooted as the bonding-for-aggression inclinations of men, most women would prefer to make or keep the peace, the sooner the better." In Women, Power, and the Biology of Peace, p. 45.

"If women around the world in the twenty-first century would get their act together they could, partnered with men of like mind, shift the direction of world history to create a future without war." In A Future Without War: the Strategy of a Warfare Transition, p. 53.


  1. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 2003 Women, Power, and the Biology of Peace. San Diego, CA : Questpath Publishing.
  2. 1 2 3 4 A Future Without War. http://www.afww.org
  3. 2006 A Future Without War: The Strategy of a Warfare Transition. San Diego, CA : Questpath Publishing.
  4. 1 2 2010 Hand, Judith L. "To Abolish War." Journal of Aggression, Conflict, and Peace Research 2(4): 44-56.
  5. 1 2 3 4 5 2008 Verbeek, Peter. "Peace Ethology." Behaviour 145(11): 1497-1524.
  6. 1985 "Egalitarian resolution of social conflicts: a study of pair-bonded gulls in nest duty and feeding contexts." Z. Tierpsychol. 70: 123-147.
  7. 1986 "Resolution of Social Conflicts: Dominance, Egalitarianism, Spheres of Dominance and Game Theory." Quart. Rev. Biol. 61:201-220.
  8. 1966 Winter, Ploog, and Hand. "Vocal repertoire of the Squirrel Monkey (Saimiri sciureus), its analysis and significance." Experimental Brain Research 1: 359-384.
  9. 1967 Hand, Hopf, and Ploog. "Observations on mating behavior and sexual play in the Squirrel Monkey (Saimiri sciureus)." Primates 8: 229-246.
  10. 2001 Voice of the Goddess. Cardiff, CA: Pacific Rim Press. ISBN 0-9700031-3-7,
  11. 2004 The Amazon and the Warrior. NY: Tor/Forge. ISBN 0-7653-4936-1
  12. 2004 Code Name: Dove. NY: Silhouette Books. ISBN 0-373-51318-6
  13. 2005 Iron Dove. NY: Silhouette Books. ISBN 0-373-51379-8
  14. 2006 Captive Dove. NY: Silhouette Books. ISBN 0-373-51425-5
  15. 2007 The Good Thief. NY: Silhouette Books. ISBN 978-0-373-38973-5
  16. 2008. Hand, Judith L. (Review) Beyond War: The Human Potential for Peace by Douglas P. Fry Human Ethology Bulletin 23(2).
  17. 1 2 3 2006 Fry, Douglas. The Human Potential for Peace: An Anthropological Challenge to Assumptions about War and Violence. NY: Oxford University Press.

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