Aggression- Chapter 13:
- Why aggression occurs depends on whether it is hostile or instrumental aggression
o Hostile aggression: refers to behavior motivated by feelings of anger, and hostility
Aim is to harm another- physically or psychologically.
o Instrumental aggression: refers to behavior that is intended to harm another in the
service of motive
Ex: gain status, attract attention, and acquire wealth.
o Many acts of aggression involve a mix of hostile and instrumental motives.
Football player hurting another (hostile aggression) to secure a place on the
team (instrumental aggression)
- Situational Determinants of aggression:
o The right mix of situational factors can give rise to violence, whether it takes place
between different ethnic or religious groups.
o It is true that aggressive behavior arises because of aggressive people (bullies,
sociopaths…), but it is also true that situational factors help us understand why
Ex: certain genes lead to aggressive behavior only when certain circumstances
occur in the individual’s life.
It is both nature and nurture
o Testosterone is associated with high levels of aggression
Certain circumstances release people’s aggressive tendencies.
o Heat is a factor.
Anger raises the temperature of the body because of
increases in blood pressure and distribution of blood to
certain parts of the body.
It also has to do with what the temperature does to
people’s emotions and actions.
o So does crime rate increase when its hot?
Violent crime rates with higher in southern France and
northern Italy, where temperatures are hotter than in
northern France and northern Italy.
Some other factors that might be responsible
for this are levels of unemployment, per capita
income, ethnic composition or average age.
o All in all, there are higher rates of crime in hotter regions.
In the US: temp > 90 F When levels of
unemployment, per capita income and average age of
its citizens were controlled for, the violence rates
remained high. People more violent in July and August (hotter
months)– murder and rape.
o Also when the weather is especially hot and dry, the likelihood
of civil conflict rises dramatically.
People are aroused by the heat but they don’t attribute
their arousal to the heat.
They usually attribute their arousal to the situation that
caused their frustration.
- Media Violence
o Child watched TV 3-4 hrs a day.
5-6 violent acts/hr.
90% of shows children watch portray some kind of violence.
Exposure to media violence increases aggressive behaviors.
o Copycat violence is very prevalent.
Study: participants view aggressive films and then are given the opportunity to
act in an aggressive fashion, for example, to shock a confederate.
Results: watching aggressive films does make people more aggressive.
o Also makes juvenile delinquents staying at a minimum security
institution more aggressive.
o Makes men act more aggressively towards women
By controlling the types of violent media participants view, sorts of media
violence most likely leading to aggression have been identified.
People are more aggressive if they identify with the perpetrator in the
People are more likely to be aggressive if they see violence towards
When they direct their attention to other contents of the film, like
aesthetic feature, they are less aggressive.
Men who liked to watch violent TV at age 8, holding constant how aggressive
they were at that age, were more likely to commit serious criminal acts at age
30 than were men who had little or moderate liking for violent TV at age 8.
- Violent video games:
o 85% of American teens play video games regularly
o Average americann between age 8-18 spend about 13 hrs a week playing video games
Many show symptoms of addiction, playing 24 hrs a week.
Playing gives them a high, they feel withdrawal symptoms when they
o Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold had this
Their gaming mirrored their actions in real life, they
took guns and ammunition to school and killed a dozen
people, injuring many, before killing themselves. 35 studies on violent video games state:
o Increases aggressive behavior
o Reduces presocial behavior, like altruism
o Increases aggressive thoughts
o Increases aggressive emotions
o Increases blood pressure and heart rate.
- Social rejection and aggression:
o Harris and Klebold felt socially rejected by the more popular students at school, their
shooting rampage was a reaction their feelings.
o How might rejection trigger aggression?
Throughout evolution, being rejected was a death warrant because everyone
pitched in roles for survival.
So now, being rejected activates a threat defense system, which involves stress
related cardiovascular arousal, which releases cortisol (a stress hormone),
feelings of distress and pain, and defensive aggressive tendencies.
Social cues, such as hearing someone gossip about us, trigger this threat
defense system and are associated with tendencies to act aggressively.
o In Harris and Klebold’s case, chronic social rejection led to
o Social rejection stimulated feelings of chronic physical pain.
How we know this is: people who have been rejected in
an experiment were placed in an fMRI machine and the
anterior cingulate lit up (region responsible for physical
o People more rejected resort to physical abuse in relationships.
o Social rejection is a root cause of school shootings.
- Income inequality
o Does a regional inequality correlate with the prevalence of different kinds of violence?
In countries characterized by high economic inequality, such as Bolivia, iran, US,
the avg citizen is more likely to be murdered, assaulted or raped than in
countries with less economic inequality such as Germany, Taiwan, Ireland.
Also, children in these countries are more liley to experience conflict with their
Powerful feelings of social rejections might trigger violence
Inequality undermines the cohesiveness of a neighborhood feelings
of trust decline
o More violence occurs in less cohesive neighborhoods.
Many situational factors increase the likelihood of violence. These include high temperature, media
and video game violence, social rejection, and economic inequality. Construal processes and aggression:
- Situations do nothing by themselves, their influence is channeled through construal processes.
- The frustrations- aggression hypothesis:
o The determinant of aggression is frustration. Frustration is the internal state that
accompanies the thwarting of an attempt to achieve some goal.
o Millar and Dollar proposed:
Aggression increases the direct proportion to:
The amount of satisfaction the person anticipated receiving from
meeting the goal
How completely the person is prevented from achieving the goal
How frequently the person is blocked from achieving the goal
How close the individual believed he or she is to achieving the goal.
Experiment: a confederate cuts in front of an individual waiting
patiently in line to see a movie. One was the 12 in line and one was the
2 in line. The person second in line reacted more aggressively.
o When a person feels blocked in the pursuit of a goal, aggression
is more likely.
- Critique of the frustration- aggression hypothesis:
o 1 crit: the hypothesis that all aggressive behaviors follow from the perceived thwarting
of a goal directed behavior is related to how does “heat” stand in the way of pursuing
Research suggests that aggression can follow stimuli that doesn’t directly block
goal- directed behavior.
More aggression if exposed to high level of pollution
Some forms of instrumental aggression are not a direct product of
o 2 crit: frustration doesn’t necessarily lead to aggression. Can lead to other responses,
depending on how the individual construes a source of frustration.
Learned helplessness is the best example. It is the passive and depressed
responses that some people show when their goals are blocked and they