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Territorality

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Territorality relates to thoughts, feelings and behavior occasioned by the defence or occupation of a particular place. The term is used to refer to both animals and humans. The former are covered in Territory (animal) and human territorility is the focus here.

Territory was initially identified as a physical space which may be staked out by individuals singly or as mating pairs. The space is subsequently defended, sometimes quite vigorously, and when left by the owner there is the strong tendency to return to it. Territories may also be claimed by various aggregates of individuals such as families, tribes, or nations. Each species has well defined patterns of when, and how territory is defined and defended. Nesting behavior in birds, hunting territory in wolves, or home ownership in humans are easy phenomena to identify. However, this initial definition was elaborated to include not only other human objects such as friends, spouses, children, but domestic animals, pets of all kinds, and physical objects such as toys, jewelry, automobiles, and golf clubs. It can also mean, in a much broader sense, anything that has been claimed for a person or group. This includes intangible things like areas of business, market share, areas of research, social scenes, contacts and how a person or groups presents itself.

Territories are strongly defended. When they are lost, sold, stolen, intruded on or captured, there may be in humans an intense sense of loss, very much akin to depression, and a sense of anger. Animals also have analogous reactions, but are naturally devoid of the expressions of emotion in language. Territory is functionally related to the survival behaviors of seeking food, shelter, sex, and reproduction, but there is no effort here to establish the survival value of territory or dominance. The universal presence of these principles in a wide variety of species would seem to argue for survival value, but there is, as yet, no scientific methodology to establish either validity or falsification of survival value. Over the long period of evolutionary time, humankind has developed a most complicated array of territorial behaviors that range from personal social relationships, to possession of land, property, and physical objects. Through the intermediation of spoken and written language, territory can be extended to abstract and symbolic objects and ideas such as religion, school, value systems, and jobs. The most obvious human territorial behaviors are the establishment of a home base, and home ownership. This extends to the ownership of many objects considered as property such as furniture, car, clothes, golf clubs, and so on. The use of the possessive pronouns (mine, yours, his, hers, ours, theirs) is a valid signal of territorial behavior recognized in self and others.


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