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o Intentional behaviour aimed at causing physical, psychological pain (physical or verbal)
o Hostile aggression: aimed at inflicting pain
o Instrumental aggression: serves as a means to some goal other than causing pain


Biological Basis - Freud

- Death instinct thanatos leads to aggressive actions
- Aggressive energy must be expressed, otherwise can result in illness


Biological Basis - Animal Models

- Universality of aggression among vertebrates indicates that aggression serves a survival function
- Expression of aggression dependent upon prior learning and social context
- Men more prone to aggression to perpetuate their genes…when they feel threatened they respond to aggression; so where dominance is an issue and also jealousy they become aggressive


Biological Basis - Amygdala and Serotonin

o Amygdala
- Lower brain centre for aggression
o Serotonin
- Neurochemical that may inhibit aggressive impulses
- Violent criminals tend to be low in serotonin


Cultural Basis - Culture of honour

- Human cultures vary widely in their degree of aggressiveness
- But is higher in those culture that define male honour in terms of power, toughness, and protection of one’s property
- US homicide rates higher in south; particularly in rural areas


Cultural Basis - Testosterone

- Strong in criminal populations
- Meta analysis: weak, positive correlation (r=0.14) exists b/w testosterone and aggression


Gender and Aggression; Boys Vs. Girls

o Boys
- More overtly aggressive
- Pushing, shoving, hitting
o Girls
- More covert
- Gossiping, rumours, backstabbing


Gender differences from 1989-1999

- Rate of violent crime for male youths was 3xs higher than for female youths
- 81% increase in females
- 30% increase in males


Gender and types of aggression

o Overall men have been shown to be more aggressive than women
- But gender differences vary depending on the situation and the difference disappears under strong provocation
o Men: generally directed at other men, is likely to involve alcohol + be more violent
o Women: more likely to be directed at a romantic partner + less likely to involve alcohol


Alcohol and Aggression

o Alcohol intoxication: violent crimes, family violence, relationship violence, bullying, date aggression, and air rage
1) reduces inhibitions (because less self-aware)
2) lowers threshold for aggressive behaviour
3) inability to consider consequences


Pain and Aggression

oPain and discomfort have been linked with aggression
o Ex: heat, humidity, foul smells…
o Study: participants read story about car accident and task to finish the story; some in hot room; some were in normal room; those in hot room came up with a more aggressive ending to the story


Frustration and Aggression: Frustration-Aggression Theory

o Frustration – aggression theory: frustration will increase the probability of an aggressive response


Frustration and Aggression

o Closeness to the goal object and expectations influence aggression
o Frustration does not always produce aggression, especially if frustrator is superior in size and strength
o If the frustration is legitimate and unintentional, the tendency to aggress will be reduced
o Relative deprivation
- Causes frustration and subsequent aggression
- Perceive that you have
• Less than you deserve
• Less than you have been led to expect
• Less than people similar to you have
- Ex: gender inequality in the workplace



- People usually feel the need to reciprocate after deliberate provocation from another person
o Rejection = aggression in the laboratory; high school shootings?


Presence of aggressive stimuli

- Presence of aggressive stimuli (ex: gun) increases the probability of aggression
o Ex: gun vs. racket study
- Walk into room; if there’s a gun on the wall the participants more aggressive; if tennis racket instead they’re less aggressive
o Study: in Seattle handgun ownership is unrestricted and there’s 2xs the murder rate than in Vancouver where there’s restricted ownership
o Cross-national study of violence found that the homicide rate in countries all over the world is highly correlated with the availability of handguns


Social Learning Theory

o Learn social behaviour by observing others and imitating them
- Bandura; bobo doll study
- Children imitate aggressive behaviour (especially when it’s rewarded)
- Aggression in NOT cathartic
o Large percentage of physically abusive people were themselves abused
o When children experience aggressive treatment at the hands of their parents, they learn that violence is the way to respond to conflict or anger
o Not given tools to handle negative emotions


TV and Aggression

- Being exposed to violence on TV + video games increases aggressive behaviour in children
- Average 12 year-old has witnessed over 100,000 acts of violence on television
Television content:
• 58% contain violence
• 78% of these = no remorse or penalty
• 40% of violent acts initiated by heroes
o STUDY: Police drama vs. non-violent sporting event
- Aggression was highest for kids primed for high aggression; but even MORE aggressive if watch the police drama


TV and Aggression in adults

- Longitudinal study of over 700 families showed relationship b/w time spent watching TV and subsequent violent behaviour


Repeated exposure to violence = numbing effect; 4 routes

1) if they can do it, so can I; weakened inhibitions
2) oh, so that’s how it’s done; imitation
3) I think it must be aggressive feelings that I’m experiencing; priming of anger and aggression
4) Ho-hum, another brutal beating; reduction of our sense of horror and sympathy for victim
5) (in textbook) I better get him, before he gets me = heightened sense of danger


Lab studies; exposure to violent porn:

1 – greater acceptance of sexual violence towards women
2 - men who view violent porn behave aggressively toward women


STUDY: Paolucci-Oddone et al. (2000) – meta analysis of the effects of violent porn

1 – developing sexually deviant tendencies
2 – committing sexual offenses
3 – experiencing difficulties in one’s intimate relationships
4 – accepting rape myth


Reducing Aggression - Punishment

Does punishment reduce aggression?
- For children, harsh punishment provides a model of aggression and does not provide a disincentive for not being aggressive when unsupervised
o Mild punishment, swiftly administered, does seem to reduce aggression in preschoolers and school kids
- Must be swift and not too severe**
- Consistency and certainty of punishment are key
o Death penalty countries have higher crimes rates; when remove death penalty no increase of crime rate


Catharsis perspective

- Blowing off steam or venting to reduce aggression
- Has opposite effect, pumps you up even more


Good ways to reduce aggression

o Exposing people to non-aggressive models reduces aggressive behaviour; Children exposed to such models show a much lower frequency of aggression than children who were not exposed
o Another tactic is to teach people how to communicate anger, or criticism in constructive ways
o Teaching empathy will also reduce aggressive behaviour
- Role playing, videotape modeling
- Higher self-esteem, higher academic achievement and lower aggression