Social Psych part 3

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Rutgers University
Professor Stephen Killianski

Ch. 12Aggression: why we hurt other people Aggressive action: intentional behavior aimed at causing either physical or psychological harm in a conspecific • Hostile aggression: an act of aggression stemming from feelings of anger and aimed only at inflicting pain • Instrumental aggression: aggression that serves as a means to some goal other than causing pain (defensive lineman) Innate instinct/learned social custom • Freud postulated that humans have Eros and Thantos o Eros: innate instincts toward life o Thantos: innate instincts toward death  If displaced outward, thantos becomes aggression towards others • Animal aggression: the territorial imperative and dominance hierarchies o Aggressive behavior can be modified by experience (cat raised with rat doesn’t attack other rats) o Some kinds of aggressive behavior don’t need to be learned (isolated rat instinctually attacked other rats) o Aggression is determined by the animal’s previous social experience as well as by the specific social context in which the animal finds itself • Hormonal and Neuro-physical influences on aggression o Amygdala & hypothalamus: aggressive behavior and expressions of hostility/anger/irritation are meditated by neural activity in theses limbic system structures o Serotonin: neurotransmitter in the brain that may inhibit aggressive impulses o Testosterone: male sex hormone associated with aggression  Elevated T may be both a cause and an effect of aggressive behavior • Animals injected with T are more aggressive • Convicts have higher levels of T • Being aggressive/competitive/sexual increases T  Sapolsky’s research • In humans, patterns of behavior are indefinitely malleable and highly controlled by social norms; thus, cultures vary widely in their degree of aggressiveness Situational (social) causes of aggression: Pain and discomfort as causes of aggression • Both animal and human studies show that pain will increase the probability that an organism will aggress o Those who immersed their hand in ice cold water were more aggressive than those that didn’t • Other forms of bodily or psychological discomfort (insults, crowding, heat, offensive odors) may also act to lower the threshold for aggressive behaviors o People in un-air-conditioned cars are more likely to honk than those in air-conditioned cars Frustration-aggression theory: frustration, the perception that you are being prevented from obtaining a goal, will result in an aggressive response. When one is thwarted on the way to an expected goal or gratification • Frustration can occur due to relative deprivation: feeling that one has less than one deserves or has been led to expect, or has less than similar others, can increase aggressive behavior • Kids Toys: Kids were led into a room with attractive toys, but were blocked by a screen. Half were allowed to play with the toys immediately (control group) and the other half had to wait. In this case, they were more destructive with their toys out of frustration o Egoistic deprivation: unfavorable social position when compared to others  Worker who believes he should have been promoted faster and may lead that person to take actions intended to improve his position within the group o Fraternal deprivation: result in the creation and growth of large social movement  American Civil Rights Movement, the envy teenagers feel towards the “wealthy characters” on TV that are supposed to portrayed as “middle class” Provocation-reciprocation: people usually feel the need to reciprocate after they are provoked by aggressive behavior from another person • Aggression is flexible, under a great deal of control/modulation. There is no regulation of an instinct. • When we are convinced it was unintentional, or if there are mitigating circumstances, most of us will not reciprocate. But to curtail an aggressive response, we must be aware of those mitigating circumstances at the time of the provocation • Inferences of intention: if someone inflicts pain and we perceive it to be of aggression, then we fight back. If we infer that it was accidental, then we wont think that they did it on purpose • Role of mitigating circumstance: o Baron: subjects were called into a lab and met a research assistant. When they walked away, all of the subjects overheard the assistant make a nasty comment about them. The mitigating circumstance was when half of the subjects were then told after the remark that the assistant was upset about failing an exam. When the subjects weren’t told anything, they were more aggressive while when they were given an explanation, they were less aggressive • Aggressive stimulus: an object associated with aggression (gun) the presence of which can increase the probability of aggressive behavior o Berkowitz & Le Page: “Objects as Aggressive Priming Cues”: Subjects will be irritated and will sit at desk where they will be able to shock their confederate. Half will have a gun sitting in front of them, the other half with have a tennis racquet. The subjects with the gun administered a great deal more shock than those with racquets in front of them • Social-cognitive learning theory: we acquire behaviors by observing others and the consequences of their behavior o Bandura Video: kids will witness behaviors
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