Lecture 21 Notes
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•Intentional behavior aimed at causing physical or psychological pain
•Two dimensions of classification:
oType of pain
Physical aggression aggression inflicting physical pain
Verbal or relational aggression saying or doing psychological hurtful things
oGoal of pain
We make a distinction between hostile and instrumental aggression
•Aggressive behavior that stems from feelings of anger and has the goal of
•Aggressive behavior that inflicts pain and the pain is a middle step
toward another goal (not always negative)
Approaches to Aggression
•Why do people do it?
o“I was born that way” Genetic predisposition
o“The booze made me do it” Chemical influence
o“I was having a bad day” Frustration-aggression theory
o“Too much violence in the media” Social learning theory
oBasic theoretical premise: aggression is adaptive and has survival value
oEarliest evidence: animals can be bred for aggression (Rottweilers). Twin studies find
high heritability for aggression.
oAmygdala stimulating amygdala can lead to aggression.
Depends on context (emphasizes that there is an interaction between neuro and
•Sometimes leads to withdrawal/fear (in a context where you probably
won’t win a fight)
•Relative social status matters
PFC may be the regulator of aggressive impulses
•Generally involved in planning & behavioural regulation
Relation of PFC and aggression:
•Murderers have less PFC activity than normal controls
•PFC becomes activated when contemplating an aggressive act
The steroid hormone testosterone may increase aggression
Greater exposure to testosterone in womb linked to aggression
Although injecting testosterone does not increase aggression
•Testosterone-aggression is weak effect, r=.14
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