A threat is a type of communication. It is a warning. It is a behaviour which almost all advanced animals have. In humans it is often verbal (spoken). Dictionary definition:
- "Any action, gesture or response that indicates an intention to attack, harm or intimidate another".
Threats evolved because actual fighting often damages an animal, and a damaged animal is at risk. On the other hand animals compete for food, territory, mating and other important things.
Because humans have complicated brains, their use of threats may be deliberate, and may be spoofs or jokes. Humans make threats verbally, but words are not automatic. If I tread in your toe, you may say "Ow" by reflex. That's not a threat. But if I say "do that again, and I'll (whatever)", that's a threat. In many cases the threat is not believed, or may even be a joke. Like other communications, a threat has a context, and the context decides its meaning.
A child who says "I'll tell my dad" may learn from the sarcastic reply "I'm so scared!" that the threat is an idle threat. An idle threat is one that promises harm which cannot or will not happen.
A threat to do harm may be mixed with an offer to do good. This is called a conditional offer, or throffer. The threat part may be implied, but nevertheless effective.
Some countries, such as the United States, have a legal concept of true threat. A true threat is a threatening communication which can be prosecuted under the law.
A threat can describe a situation of danger: for example "a terrorist threat". Many countries have a system where the government can adjust its security by having official threat levels.
- ↑ A declaration of intent to cause punishment or harm or loss on another. "Threat". Oxford English Dictionary (3rd ed). Oxford University Press 2005.
- ↑ Reber A.S & E. 1985. Dictionary of Psychology, 3rd ed. Penguin, London.
- ↑ Carter, Ian 2011. "Throffers". In Keith Dowding (ed) The Encyclopedia of Power. Sage Publications, p667. ISBN 9781412927482
- ↑ Phelps and Lehman, Shirelle and Jeffrey (2005). West's Encyclopedia of American Law. Detroit: Gale Virtual Reference Library. p. 27.