What Is Aggression? (handout/exercise)
This is any form of behavior that is intended to
harm or injure some person, oneself, or an object.
Instrumental vs. Hostile
IA: This is the intentional use of harmful
behavior so that one can achieve some other goal
HA: This is the intentional use of harmful behavior, where
the goal is simply to cause injury or death to the victim.
Social learning theory
People, like animals, possess an innate aggressive
Aggression is part of human nature
Freud held that aggression stems
from a forceful death wish or instinct
Initially aimed at self destruction
But, to survive, is redirected outwardly
Was greatly influenced by witnessing the annihilation of
the Jews in WWII
Lorenz proposed that aggression
stems from a fighting instinct
Developed during the course of evolution because
it promoted survival of the species
Spread the population over a wide area
Helped assure that only the strongest would pass genes on
to future generations
Modern instinct theory:
Sociobiology assumes that aggression increases the likelihood that
an individual will survive and successfully reproduce. (Go to Psy
1010 web links)
Most social psychologists are critical of instinct
Levels of at least some forms of aggression vary greatly
among various societies (Tasaday vs. Yanamano Indians)
Such huge differences in behavior indicate that aggressive
behavior is greatly influenced by cultural and social
Nonetheless, remember how you feel when encroached upon by
a nonrelated member of human species. Ever feel incredibly
rageful? Or how would you react if someone tried to "harm" a
Growing body of evidence indicates that biological
factors predispose some individuals toward aggression
Amygdala & electrical stimulation
Attempted suicides and persons institutionalized because of
extremely high levels of aggression had lower levels of serotonin
than normal healthy controls
Female transsexuals receiving large doses of testosterone
report higher levels of anger and aggression during treatment
None of the studies show that aggressive tendencies are
inherited in a direct way or that biological factors are the most
important determinants of aggressive behavior
Social learning theory
Instrumentally aggressive behaviors are learned
through direct experience or through observation
We learn not only how to behave aggressively, but who are
appropriate targets, what behaviors "justify" aggressive
retaliation, and in what situations aggression is appropriate
Direct reinforcement: If
aggression is rewarded, aggressive response is strengthened. What
if aggression punished? Does it decrease?
Observational learning: Bobo doll experiment.
Study the experiment.
Even young children can acquire new ways of
aggressing from watching media violence (e.g., Geen, 1991)
Aggression comes from a complex interplay among
cognitive factors -- scripts, attributions, affective states
(moods) and other factors--e.g., memories
Studies on direct
Actions by others may trigger aggression. ONLY IF
they are perceived to stem from malicious intent. We tend NOT
to "turn the other cheek" in this case.
What provokes us?
Harris (1993) found both male and females find physical and
verbal aggression most anger provoking
But females are much more likely than males to be provoked
by condescension and insensitivity
Males provoked by casting aspersions on their sexuality;
incompetence; physical threats
Studies on hostile attributional
Dodge et al. (1986) found that the greater the
tendency of boys to attribute hostile intentions to others, the
greater their tendency to engage in aggression while playing
with other children
Studies of adolescents also show that the tendency to
perceive malice in the action of others is closely related to
high levels of aggression
Not everyone has been able to replicate, however
Suggest that aggression comes from external
conditions that arouse the motive to harm others
Hostile Aggression & The
F-A hyp. first developed by a group of social psychologists
in 1939. It states that frustration causes aggression and that
catharsis is the reduction in the aggressive drive following an
Frustration (interference with goal-directed behavior)
arouses a drive whose primary goal is that of harming a person
or object--usually the perceived cause of the frustration (coke
Early tests of the theory were mostly successful,
frustration does not always lead to aggression
aggression always the result of frustration.
frustration only leads to aggression when it is seen as
intentionally meant to thwart the person.
Catharsis: We all like to
believe that catharsis (a drive) works, but it does not. I'll
get to this later.
Berkowitz' recent rendition of a
"kind" of drive theory
A revised frustration-aggression hypothesis states that
frustration is just one of the many factors that can stimulate
Berkowitz (1989) proposed a revision that incorporates both
cognitive and affective factors. (study him!)
Frustration is an aversive experience, and it leads to
aggression because it is unpleasant & arousing
Frustration sometimes leads to aggression because of a
basic relationship between negative affect and aggressive
Does so most when the frustrating event is perceived as
This helps explain why unexpected and/or illegitimate or
unjustified frustration tends to produce stronger
Presumably it produces more negative affect than
frustration that is expected or viewed as justified
Other Factors Involved in or Theories of
Temperature and Aggression
Hot weather can put people in bad moods, and these
moods can make them more likely to respond to frustration with
aggression. Study Affect-Arousal models. Know differences.
Excitation Transfer Theory of Aggression
Arousal produced in one situation can persist and
intensify emotional reactions
occurring in later situations (exercise study)
These effects are most likely to occur when person is
unaware of the presence of the residual arousal or when persons
recognize their residual arousal, but attribute it to the
Expanded 1988 theory to incorporate interaction
between cognition and emotion
Cognitions can lead us to reappraise various
emotion-arousing events which may influence our emotional
Arousal can influence our thoughts, producing a cognitive
deficit--a reduced ability to plan rationally or evaluate the
outcomes of our behavior
Example: Sexual arousal
Relatively mild levels of sexual arousal can reduce
Exposure to more arousing sexual materials can increase
Zillmann (1984) proposes a two- component model:
Exposure to erotic stimuli
influences current affective states
Mild erotic materials produce weak levels of
arousal but high levels of positive affect--tending to
reduce overt aggression
Very explicit sexual materials produce stronger
arousal and negative affect (because many people find
some of the acts shown to be disturbing)--tending to
increase overt aggression
Aggressive Cues as "Triggers" of Aggression
Presence of aggression-associated cues in the
environment act as triggers for hostile outbursts (e.g., weapons).
Alcohol and Aggression
The research has found a strong correlation between
alcohol intoxication and a
host of different types of aggression, including domestic
abuse, assault, rape, and homicide. Think of recent hate
Television Violence and Observational
Experimental and field studies of media violence
indicate a clear relationship between viewing aggressive models on
television or film and increases aggressive behavior in
Longitudinal studies of media violence suggest that
the frequency of viewing televised violence does seem to
contribute to later aggressive behavior.
Cross-cultural research on media violence indicates relatively
stable results across cultures.
The Contagion of Violence: Copycat
It appears that news reports sometimes are
sufficient catalysts to promote disturbed individuals to commit
an act they had been contemplating but had not yet acted
Why Does Exposure to Media Violence
Disinhibition suggests that viewing the violence
of others reduces people's inhibitions against engaging in
The formation of aggressive scripts is a guide for behavior
and problem solving that is developed and stored in memory and
is characterized by aggression.
Cognitive priming: Aggressive cues in television and films
can prime a host of aggressive ideas and violent actions may
trigger aggressive actions.
Sexual Aggression, Pornography and Sexual
What is pornography? The
combination of sexual material along with abuse or degradation in
a manner that appears to endorse, condone, or encourage such
The rape myth is a false belief--that deep down, women enjoy
forcible sex and find it sexually exciting.
Aggressive behavior research indicated that when men watch a
mixture of sex and violence they tend not to only underestimate
the seriousness of rape,
they also are more likely to justify sexual
have reduced inhibitions about engaging in aggressive
Desensitizing and conditioning violence is often motivated for
the wrong reasons (MONEY).
Ethical issues in conducting pornography research include the
problem of men who see films or read of women being sexually
assaulted (shades of observational learning) learning that rape is
Sexual Scripts and Acquaintance
Acquaintance rape is forced sexual intercourse that
occurs either on a date or between people who are acquainted or
The female resistant role must be consistent; she must mean
"no" when she says "no".
The male predator role research indicates that the predator
believes that women like a little force to enjoy sex; he does not
view acquaintance rape as rape.
Jealousy and Aggression
Research indicates that what often results is an
increasing escalation of physical and psychological abuse.
Punishment is not enough.
May reduce aggressive behavior under certain circumstances.
When, do you think?
It does not teach the aggressor new prosocial forms of
behavior; punishment also serves as a model for aggressive
Do as I do. Teaches by example.
Research suggests that both aggression and
nonaggression can be learned through social modeling.
Will not be aggressive when you are feeling
responses inconsistent with aggression
Humor, mild sexual arousal, feelings of empathy
have all been effective in reducing overt aggression
People can presumably control their aggressiveness
by thinking that they should not or will not aggress
Example: Asking kids to state why it is bad to imitate
Example: Having children think about how their aggressive
behavior hurts another.
Ethnic or Cultural Differences in
Ostermann et al. (1994); 8-year-old children's
self-reports or peer ratings
Aggressive in this order:
African American children (from Chicago inner city) most
aggressive, then Caucasian American, Polish, and Finnish children.
Are men more aggressive than women? This is the
stereotype, from early age onwards.
Males may be more aggressive with no provocation. But, when
provoked, differences are minimal
Physical aggression more prevalent in males. Verbal or
indirect more prevalent in females.
How to explain gender differences?
Social role interpretation? (Eagly et al.)
Biological factors (e.g., testosterone). Correlational