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Aggression

Are we natural born killers? If not, how do we stop the violence?

Aggression Defined
Intentional behavior aimed at causing either physical or psychological harm
Contrast aggression and assertiveness

Hostile vs. Instrumental Aggression


Hostile: stems from a feeling of anger. Goal is to inflict pain or injury. Instrumental: aggression takes place as a means to some other goal (e.g., professional assassin)

Aggression Statistics
24,703 murders in the U.S. in 1991(9.8/100k) 16,037 murders in the U.S. in 2001 16,528 murders in the U.S. in 2003 16,148 murders in the U.S. in 2004 16,692 murders in the U.S. in 2005 (5.6/100k) Expand definition to violent crime (murder, nonnegligent manslaughter, rape, robbery, and aggravated assault):
1,911,677 in 1991(rate=758/100,000) 1,439,480 in 2001 1,423,677 in 2002 1,383,676 in 2003 1,390,695 in 2005 (rate=469/100,000)

Is Aggression an Instinct?
Hundreds of years of debate Jean-Jacques Rousseau: No. We are naturally gentle - restrictive society makes us hostile Thomas Hobbes: Yes!!! We are brutes and only law and government can help us Freud: Supports Hobbes. Argued that we had a powerful death instinct known as Thanatos leads to aggressive actions

Freud and Aggression


Believed that aggressive energy must be released otherwise it builds up and causes illness.
A hydraulic theory

Sublimation society regulates this instinct. Helps people to turn destructive energy into useful behavior
E.g., danger seeking, competitive person becomes a race car driver

Hydraulic Theory
A fair amount of evidence suggests that for many species the hydraulic theory is not true
John Paul Scott: If an organism can arrange its life so that there is no outside stimulation to fight, then it will not experience any physiological or mental damage as a result of not expressing aggression.

However, Lorenz has found evidence with cichlids (Siamese fighting fish) to the contrary

Evolutionary Arguments
Lore and Schultz: argue that aggression has survival value.
However, most species seem to have developed inhibitory mechanisms that allow them to suppress aggression Thus, aggression is an optional strategy

Regional differences in aggression suggest strategic view of aggression

Regional Differences in Aggression


Homicide rates for White southern males are substantially higher than for White northern males (especially in rural areas)
However, they do not endorse violence in general, only as a tool for protection of property and in response to insults: Culture of honor based upon history as herding society

Nisbett research on southerners reaction to being bumped and cursed at


More upset (cortisol increase), primed for aggression (testosterone increase), more likely to engage in aggression after the incident

How Useful is Aggression?


Survival of the fittest?
Concept of aggression leading to success appears to have outlived its utility e.g., MAD: Mutual Assured Destruction arms policy utilized by US and the Soviet Union during the Cold War. Peter Kropotkin (1902) argued that cooperative behavior and mutual aid might have greater survival value. Altruism. Kropotkins work has been ignored perhaps it did not fit with the mindset of the Industrial Revolution

Utility of Aggression, Continued


Catharsis: Freudian belief that a release of energy is necessary. Fits with our everyday experience of blowing off some steam. Three methods question is do they work? Method One: Socially aggressive physical activities (e.g., football)
Neither participating or watching these sports decreases aggressive behavior (in fact, watching temporarily increases aggression).

Utility of Aggression, Continued


Method Two: Fantasy
Utility is limited it reduces some, but not a lot of aggression

Method Three: Direct Aggression. Does lashing out help to reduce future aggression
Apparently not. Actually seems to increase future aggression Cognitive Dissonance. Blaming the victim. Only reduces future aggression if equity has been restored.

Causes of Aggression
Neurological and Chemical Causes
Amygdala (located in the forebrain). Testosterone leads to an increase in aggression, but also increases during aggression If testosterone is linked to aggression, does this mean that men are more aggressive than women? Maccoby and Jacklin research suggests yes. Across cultures, women demonstrate less violence Further, during era of womens liberation, nonviolent crime rate relative to male rate has increased, but not violent crime rate.

Causes of Aggression, Continued


Alcohol
75% of individuals arrested for crimes of violence were legally drunk at the time of their arrests. Experimental evidence implies that alcohol ingestion increases aggression Interpretation, alcohol is a disinhibitor. It seems that under the influence of alcohol a persons primary tendencies are revealed

Causes of Aggression, Continued


Pain and Discomfort
If an animal experiences pain and cant flee, violence follows Most research has been done on heat Violent crime and aggression increases as temperature increases (e.g., baseball above 90) Confound is increased interaction as it gets warmer However, lab research suggests that temperature is key component

Causes of Aggression, Continued


Frustration
Thwarting an individuals attainment of a goal increases the probability of an aggressive response Frustration becomes greater the closer one gets to a goal, and if interruption is unexpected or illegitimate Key seems to be relative deprivation not just deprivation Revolutions are not begun by people with their faces in the mud, but people who have recently lifted their faces out of the mud and have had time to look around

Color
Research demonstrates that room color does not have much of an impact However, uniform color has been demonstrated to be related to an increase in penalties received (in both football and hockey)
Question is: Does wearing a color make you more aggressive or are referees more likely to interpret ambiguous situations as aggressive?

Social Learning and Aggression


We do learn when to not aggress For instance, intention of frustrator is considered.
Excuses have a greater impact if given before frustrating behavior

On the other hand, certain cues prime us for aggression (e.g., guns). Taking responsibility for act decreases violence why anonymity/deindividuation is so frightening.
Zimbardo (anonymous shockers): Mullen (lynchings and mob size)

Social Learning and Mass Media


Idea of learning from aggressive models begins with Bandura TV, as we have discussed, is full of violent models High correlation between the amount of TV watched and viewers subsequent aggression this data is correlational Margaret Thomas demonstrated that viewing TV violence can numb peoples reactions when they are faced with real-life aggression

Why does media violence affect us?


When we summarize the ideas in the research four themes arise:
Seeing others being aggressive weakens our learned inhibitions against violence. Learn techniques, imitate. Primes anger. Makes us more aware of anger. Desensitization to violence.

Pornography and Violence Against Women


Approximately 50% of rapes are committed by acquaintances This statistic has led many to theorize that confusion about sexual scripts is the problem
Male is supposed to persist, the female to resist 95% of males, 97% of females believe that sexual advances should stop when women says no But 50% of those respondents also believe that no does not always mean no!!!!

Pornography and Violence Against Women


Presidential commission on pornography concluded that explicit sexual material in and of itself did not contribute to sexual crimes, violence against women, or other anti-social acts. But. Violent pornography has been shown to increase acceptance of sexual violence (Malamuth and Donnerstein) Evidence that slasher movies have the same impact.

Can we reduce violence?


Pure reason? No, ineffective. Punishment? Overall findings are mixed
More effective when applied in the context of a warm relationship Overly restrictive punishments are frustrating, which can lead to aggression What does that say about prison? Remember Zimbardo prison study. Moderate vs. severe punishment and cognitive dissonance.

Can we reduce violence?


Punishment of aggressive models? e.g., public floggings, death penalty
Death penalty institution does not decrease homicide rate in a country. In lab, seeing an aggressive model punished does not reduce future aggression (seeing them rewarded does increase aggression however.)

Presence of non-aggressive models? Yes.


Remember, we often conform to others when we seek out information on how to act

Can we reduce violence?


Rewarding alternate behavior patterns?
Brown and Elliott have demonstrated that ignoring aggression while rewarding positive behaviors reduces aggression Issue is, negative attention is better than no attention at all for some

Building empathy towards others?


Feshbachs have demonstrated that increasing empathy can reduce aggression (difficult to dehumanize someone you feel for)