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PSYC 2120 Chapter 11.docx

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PSYC 2120
Irwin Silverman

PSYC 2120 Chapter 11: Aggression What is aggression? - Aggression is an intentional behaviour aimed at causing either physical or psychological pain - Hostile aggression is an act of aggression stemming from feelings of anger and aimed at inflicting pain - Instrumental aggression, aggression as a means to some goal other than causing pain. For example, in a professional football game, a defensive lineman will usually do whatever it takes to thwart his opponent (the blocker) and tackle the ball carrier - Sigmund Freud, who theorized that human beings are born with an instinct toward life, which he called eros, and an equally powerful death instinct, thanatos, which leads to aggressive actions - Freud believed that aggressive energy must come out somehow, lest it continue to build up and produce illness - Also according to Freud, society performs an essential function in regulating this instinct and in helping people to sublimate it, that is, to turn the destructive energy into acceptable or useful behaviour - Because aggressiveness has had survival value, most contemporary social psychologists accept the proposition that it is part of our evolutionary heritage - At the same time we know that human beings have developed exquisite mechanisms for controlling their aggressive impulses, and that human behaviour is flexible and adaptable to changes in the environment. - Whether aggression is actually expressed depends on a complex interplay between our biological propensities and the social situation in which we find ourselves Neural and chemical influences on aggression - Aggressive behaviour in human beings, as well as in lower animals, is associated with an area in the core of the brain called the amygdala - When the amygdala is stimulated, docile organisms become violent; similarly, when neural activity in that area is blocked, violent organisms become docile. However, the impact of neural mechanisms can be modified by social factors, even in subhumans. For example, if a male monkey is in the presence of other, less dominant monkeys, he will indeed attack the other monkeys when the amygdala is stimulated - Certain chemicals have been shown to influence aggression: serotonin, a chemical substance that occurs naturally in the midbrain, seems to have an inhibiting effect on impulsive aggression. Moreover, in laboratory experiments on normal people, when the natural production of serotonin is interrupted, aggressive behaviour increases. Therefore, too little serotonin can lead to increases in aggression - However, too much testosterone, a male sex hormone can also increase aggression. For example, prisoners convicted of violent crimes tend to have higher levels of testosterone than do those convicted of nonviolent crimes. This is consistent with the more general finding that men are more aggressive than women - At least one other chemical, alcohol, is associated with increases in aggression; alcohol acts as a genial disinhibitor, lowering our inhibitions against violent behaviour - Pain and other physical discomforts (heat) will also increase aggressive behaviour Situational causes of aggression - Frustration is a major cause of aggression and it occurs when a person is thwarted on the way to an expected goal or gratification - According to frustration aggression theory, people’s perception that they are being prevented from obtaining a goal will increase the probability of an aggressive response. This does not mean that frustration always leads to agg
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