AGGRESSION

 

What do you mean when you say that Charley is an aggressive person? Aggression and aggressiveness have several different meanings in everyday speech - the actions of a brutal slayer or a successful salesperson - are we talking about the same thing?

 

Aggression (psy defn) any form of behavior directed toward the goal of harming or injuring another living being who is motivated to avoid such harm

 

                aggression as behavior distinguishable from emotions that may or may not accompany it (anger); motives that may or may not underlie it (the desire to inflict pain); or the negative attitudes that sometimes facilitate its occurrence (prejudice)

 

                aggression and intention - acts intended to harm; difficulties inherent in determining intent - inferred; however, if reference to intent was removed from the definition then we would have to include many non-aggressive acts as aggressive. Also, incidences of aggression do occur where the intent to harm fails. That's why it is essential to define aggression, not only, as behavior that inflicts harm or injury to others but rather as any action directed toward the goal of harming  (inflicting aversive consequences)

 

                aggression is directed at living beings that are motivated to avoid the harm

 

                2 types of destructive aggression: instrumental - to attain a goal ;hostile - aggression as an ends in itself - thrill killing; comes from anger

 

Why do people behave aggressively? What causes aggressive behavior?

There are many explanations but most fall into 3 distinct categories or theoretical perspectives:

 

                1) person centered (instinctual)

                2) situation centered (behavioral, environmental)

                3) interactionist (cognitive)

 

1) Person centered

 

                A) Psychoanalytic theory - aggression as human destiny, an innate urge toward death and destruction; we are genetically determined to be aggressive. Aggression operates as a powerful instinct  (mortido); hostile impulses generated from this instinct gradually build up over time (accumulation of specific energy) and unless periodically released in safe and non-injurious ways, it will soon reach dangerous levels. Aggressive energy must be released (redirected or sublimated, catharsis) or the person will "explode" and kill himself or another. Society is a means of regulating aggression but it cannot really be controlled or eliminated according to this theory.

                Feshbach - fantasy study and catharsis

                                Catharsis -experiencing an emotion is a way to release it - to release pent-up aggression

                Hydraulic model - we store up aggressive energy and this energy needs to be released - does it work? Most social science research indicates that it does not - rather, aggression breeds further aggression

 

                B) The Ethological view - Lorenz - aggression springs from an aggressive instinct (pugnacity) that man shares with many non-human species. This instinct developed during evolution because it yielded benefits in mating, food resources, geographical deployment within an environment of limited resources. However, the innate fighting instinct does not occur unless somehow provoked - environmental cues elicit the fighting instinct Cichlids - fighting fish - red spot. territoriality. Also a hydraulic model.

 

                Biology and genetics - testosterone, temperament (breeding for temperament) Sociobiology - E.O. Wilson. Males are more aggressive due to higher levels of testosterone (steroids)

 

2) Situation centered theories

 

                A) Frustration-Aggression Hypothesis - Dollard & Miller

                                Frustration is defined as the blocking of ongoing goal directed behavior leading to arousal of a drive whose primary goal is to harm. This aggressive drive leads to aggressive behavior. Frustration leads to aggression. Research on children who are frustrated by only being allowed to watch other children play when they expected to be able to play. This theory assumes:

1)  frust leads to some form of aggrn and

2)  aggrn is always the result of frustration (frustrated expectations - look at where riots occur - a case of relative deprivation).

               The theory was modified to F leads to many forms of behavior, one of which may be aggression.

                                The condition most likely to elicit aggression is when the person perceives the frust as arbitrary, intentional, and views aggression as a valid response

                                Frustration "arises from the gap between expectations and attainments"p.429, Myers

 

                B) The Revised Frustration-Aggression hypothesis (Berkowitz)  Looks at aggression as an externally elicited drive. Frustration creates a "readiness to respond in an aggressive manner" if the proper environmental cues are present indicating that an aggressive response is appropriate. This theory suggests that certain cues in our environment have become strongly associated (learned) with aggression and aggressive behavior - they have aggressive cue value. If, then, a person becomes frustrated in the presence of these cues, he will behave more aggressively.

                                 Led to research on the Weapon's Effect - Does the finger pull the trigger or does the trigger pull the finger? Ss were frustrated by a confederate; they were then given the opportunity to "shock" the confed. Ss were either in a room with sporting equipment or with weapons hanging on the walls. Findings?

                               

                                Wisconsin studies - Ss insulted by confed/ watch an excerpt from a violent movie/ given change to aggress against the confed. - Confed has the same name as the bad guy in the film or the good guy in the film. Which confed received the most shocks? justified filmed aggression.

                                General findings:

1)  witnessing an aggression oriented movie lowers one's inhibitions against behaving aggressively

2)  certain stimuli have greater cueing value in triggering frustration engendered aggression (priming - accessibility)

3)   anger and frustration create a readiness to respond in an aggressive manner if other contextual cues are appropriate

 

                c) General Arousal or the Excitation Transfer Model of Aggression    Zillman

                                emphasizes the role of arousal generated by the event as contributing to aggression; any sort of arousal can lead to aggression depending on the circumstances in which it occurs. In a study on aggression, Ss exercised vigorously, they were then jostled  - what happens? We label the residual excitement in terms of the current context. Found that males who exercised prior to being interviewed by a female found that female to be much more attractive than did those males who did not exercise.

 

                D) Social Learning theory (Albert Bandura)

                                aggression is acquired through viewing aggressive models; people are aggressive because

1)  they have learned aggressive responses through past experience;

2)  they receive or expect to receive rewards for behaving in an aggressive manner;

3)  they are encouraged by social conditions to behave aggressively

                                People learn to be aggressive; behavior is transmitted through exposure to social models (real life and symbolic)

                                Modeling - the process through which a person observes the behavior of another, forms an idea (encodes it), and 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 - response facilitation (applauding at a concert), not new behaviors or learned behaviors but releasers.

                                Through direct or vicarious experience people learn:

1)  a large array of aggr responses;

2)  who is an appropriate target for aggression;

3)  what actions by others justify retaliation;

4)  in what contexts aggr is appropriate (Baron & Richardson, 1991).

 

                                BoBo doll studies (Bandura) - adults hit a bobo doll while kids watch; kids are then given the chance to play with the doll. What do they do?  What happens if the kids see the adult being reinforced with an ice cream cone after he beat the doll?

                                Problems: BoBos are punching bags; does this mean that a child will hit another or hurt another human as a result of this? Is this an ecologically valid study?

 

                                Liebart & Baron (1972) exposed kids to either a violent excerpt from the Untouchables or an excerpt from an exciting track race. Both groups were then given the opportunity to shock other children. Findings?

 

                                Leyens (1975) using full length movies observed the aggressive and non-aggressive behavior of young boys in a school in Belgium. Baseline behaviors were taken. Ss were then divided into violent and non-violent movie groups. One week's worth of movies. Behaviors observed?

 

                                When you look at individual differences in aggressiveness, the exposure to televised violence creates a greater impact.

 

                                Stein et al pre-tested nursery school kids on aggressiveness. Aggressive and nonaggressive kids were exposed to violent or prosocial programming over a 6 week period. Findings? observational learning; inhibition and disinhibition; sensitization and desensitization

 

                                Josephson (1987) young boys (7-9) rated as aggressive and nonaggressive; bike racing film or violent film; kids then played "floor hockey" - aggr. boys exposed to the violent movie were significantly more aggressive in their play; however, nonaggressive boys were not

 

                                Desensitization - as we escalate our viewing of filmed aggression toward others we become less sensitive to the pain and suffering of others

 

                                Kids exposed to SWAT or to an exciting volleyball match registered the same on measures of physiological arousal. They then watched a video of kids playing. The play turned into a knock down fight. The Ss physiological responses were recorded; the SWAT group registered lower than the volleyball watchers.

 

                                Eron - Rip Van Winkle study - long lasting effects of televised violence on kids; 875 eight year olds studied for 10 years; kids who watched a lot of violent TV at 8 were more likely to exhibit behavioral tendencies toward violence in teenage years

                                Chicago Circle study - 750 kids; factors most associated with aggressiveness: peer ratings, self-ratings; fantasy aggression. It seems that many factors correlate with the aggressiveness of children - not just TV viewing. They also found that children who have difficulty distinguishing between real-life and fantasy aggression are most affected by the TV violence.

 

                                Exposure to TV violence  generates a sense of danger and mistrust . Elders, women, and children who view a great deal of TV are more fearful. Why?

 

                                TV communicates social norms, goals, etc. - is a goal of our culture to control people (certain groups of people) by inducing fear of victimization?

 

                                Cognitive factors: perception of the violence as real; identification with the violent characters; belief's about the social acceptance of violence.

                                 Singer and Singer (1983) TV is rapid paced and full of interruptions. It can be disorganized and stressful. It doesn't allow for reflection (mindlessness)

 

                                Gerbner et al 1986 typical cartoon has 3 violent episodes  per minute; we watch an average of 7 hours per day

 

                                Heusmann, Lagerspetz, Eron (84) Eron & Huesmann (86) found significant correlations between amount of TV watched and aggressive behavior; particularly with boys who identify with the characters and with girls who prefer masculine activities. Huesmann - age 8 seems to be the critical period

 

                                Joy, Kimball, Zabrack (86) measured children's physical and verbal aggression in three similar Canadian towns;

1)  town 1 had no TV until 1974

2)  town 2 received broadcasts from only Canadian ntwk   

3)  town 3 received broadcasts from US networks            measured mean increase in aggressive behavior in same time period that TV was introduced in town 1;

 findings; kids in town 1 showed larger increases in aggressive behavior

 

 

                3) interactive theories:

 

a)   Social learning theory - later forms are more cognitive; cognition and environment in a reciprocally determining relationship; people selectively attend to TV ; they encode information is a way that is meaningful to them; cognitive factors are important in determining what will be attended to; how they will be perceived - self produced influences determine action. We can create and plan an experience. People, by their actions create the social melieu. Psychological functioning requires the constant reciprocal interaction between behavior, cognition, and environmental Influences  (Attitude accessibility - violent rap music - J. Johnson - expectations, stereotypes - kids listening to gangsta rap were more likely to give aggressive responses and to view aggressive behavior as appropriate/ they were also more likely to view educational achievement as less important and less likely - gangsta and non-gangsta).

 

                                Cognitive priming - violence increasing after the superbowl

                                making ideas and emotions ready or accessible

 

                                Bushman & Geen (1990) students were asked to write down their thoughts after watching either excerpts from 48 HOURS and the French Connection or a non-violent scene from Dallas - viewers who watched the most aggressive episodes had the most aggressive thoughts, anger-related feelings, and the greatest physiological arousal

                                b) attribution