Social Psychology


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The Nature & Nurture
of Aggression

    Ψ  Aggression: Any physical or verbal behavior intended to hurt someone.

    Ψ  Psychologists classify aggression as instrumental & hostile. Instrumental aggression is aggressive behavior intended to achieve a goal. It is not necessarily intended to hurt another person. Most terrorism is instrumental aggression.

    Ψ  Theories of Aggression

    •  Instinct theory: This theory has largely been discredited. The instinctive theory of aggression claims that aggression builds up whether or not there is any outside provocation until it is likely that aggressive behavior will result.

    •  The theory of aggression as drive claims that aggression a response to the frustration of some goal-directed behavior by an outside source. These goals include basic needs like food, water, sleep, sex, love, & recognition.

    •  Neural influences: Researchers have found neural systems (specific areas of the brain) when stimulated produce aggression.

    •  Genetic influences: Heredity influences the neural system's sensitivity to aggressive cues.

    •  Blood chemistry: influences the neural system's sensitivity to aggressive cues, e.g. Increased alcohol levels enhance aggressiveness & aggressiveness correlates with the male hormone, testosterone.

    Ψ  Psychological Influences on Aggression

    •  Frustration & Aggression Theory: posits that feelings of aggression are brought on when we are prevented from obtaining a goal. Fear of punishment / disapproval for aggressing may cause displacement (aggression redirected against a target other than the one causing the frustration or even against one's self). Frustration aggression theory predicts that when individuals are frustrated & cannot aggress against the source of their frustration, they will attack less powerful groups.

    • Modified Frustration & Aggression Theory: (Berkowitz) Looks at aggression as an externally elicited drive. Frustration creates a emotional readiness to respond in an aggressive manner (ANGER). This theory suggests that certain cues in our environment have aggressive cue value. If, then, a person becomes frustrated in the presence of these cues, he will behave more aggressively.

    •  There are rewards of aggression.

    •  Social Learning theory (Albert Bandura) aggression is acquired through viewing aggressive models; people are aggressive because

        •  they have learned aggressive responses through past experience
         •  they are encouraged by social conditions to behave aggressively.
           •  they receive or expect to receive rewards for behaving in an aggressive manner.

    •  Social Learning theory: Modeling is the process through which a person observes the behavior of another, forms an idea (encodes it), & uses the performance as a guide to her own behavior. Through modeling the learner acquires new forms of behavior (Observational learning effect). Modeling can also inhibit (weaken) or disinhibit (strengthen) behavior. Models serve as cues to behavior.

    •  Environmental influences: Aggression is triggered by:

        •  Painful incidents
         •  Heat
          •  Attacks
           •  Crowding - subjective feeling that there is not enough space per person.

    Ψ  Reducing Aggression

    Ψ  Catharsis: The Greek word for purgation, cleansing, & purification is a word that has become part of the learned vocabulary of scholars. Catharsis is a psychodynamic principle that, in its most basic sense, is simply an emotional release. Further, the catharsis hypothesis maintains that aggressive or sexual urges are relieved by "releasing" aggressive or sexual energy, usually through action or fantasy. This hypothesis is not well supported by research. This is a central component of the drive theory of aggression. Many people still feel that "blowing off steam" periodically is important to good mental health.

Social Psychology
  Robert C. Gates