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Chapter 11

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Western University
Psychology 2070A/B
James M Olson

Chapter 11- Aggression Aggression behaviour that it intended to injure someone physically or psychologically (even if it doesn't actually cause harm i.e. shooting and missing) Assertiveness behaviour intended to express dominance/confidence  Assertive behaviour such as returning an undercooked dish in a restaurant is not aggressive unless it is also intended to harm another person Violence aggression that is intended to cause extreme injury  Violence is always a form of aggression but not all aggression is violence b/c it is not always aimed at causing extreme injury o Includes: beating, shooting, stabbing another person Types of Aggression  Hostile aggression harm-doing that arises out of negative emotions such as anger, frustration, or hatred  Often impulsive, primary goal: hurt target o Ex. Road rage, assault, child throws tantrum when mom refuses to buy candy  Instrumental aggression harm-doing that is motivated by goals other than hurting the target, such as obtaining something of value  Often premeditated, motives: multi-faceted  Most acts of aggression reflect some mixture of anger and a desire to achieve more distant goals o Ex. Armed robbery, parental spanking  Relational aggression behaviour that is intended to damage another person’s peer relationships  I.e. Social exclusion, rumour spreading o Ex. Nicki Crick—measures of physical and relational aggression of preschoolers  Results: boys more overtly aggressive, girls more relationally aggression  Children had not yet developed a reliable sense of assigning aggressive inclinations to their peers, but by grade school, clearly outlined characteristics show—girls rely more on social forms more o Signs of social maladjustment among girls who used relational aggression  suggests that this continues into young adulthood—associated w/ peer rejection and antisocial personality  Sometimes aggressive behaviour can be associated w/ popularity  (grade 7 and 9) both overt and relational aggression were positively related to popularity  Direct aggression behaviour intended to hurt someone “to their face” o Ex. Hockey player punches another  These theories aren’t necessarily mutually exclusive—behaviour can be relational and hostile—child angry @ acquaintance and tells classmate the person is dishonest, or direct and instrumental—man can fight another to win over his true love Theories of Aggression General Aggression Model (GAM) General aggression model (GAM) a broad theory that conceptualizes aggression as the result of a chain of psychological processes, including situational events, aggressive thoughts and feelings, and interpretations of the situation  Some people more likely to respond to situational events w/ aggressive thoughts + feelings—reflected in individual differences  Appraisal process—individual must first interpret the situation as one in which aggression is appropriate Biological Influences on Aggression  Anger induced physiological arousal is spontaneous and innate—people don't have to “learn” to feel this state Hormonal Activity and Aggression  Testosterone shown to increase aggression  Levels of testosterone in men peak in mid-20s, then decline—corresponding to age-related changes in violent crime o Ex. Prisoners who were convicted of violent crimes found to have more testosterone Evolutionary Processes  Possible that aggression served a survival function in our evolutionary past for two reasons: 1) Self-defense: protection of self + offspring—against physical (pain, fear)/psychological attacks from enemies/predators 2) Gaining material and social rewards—using aggression to obtain desired outcomes, frustration, challenges to dominance, recognition that aggression can achieve a goal are states that are associated w/ need to use aggression for rewards o In human history, physical strength + dominance have probably been associated w/ greater access to food and mates  Fight-or-flight response to a threat presumably increased our ancestors’ chances of surviving attacks  Male sexual jealousy= common precipitator for aggression and argued that evolutionary pressures selected for this emotional state  Aggressive impulse can be consciously suppressed when aggressive behaviour would be counterproductive Frustration and Aggression Frustration-aggression hypothesis the twin propositions that frustration always leads to some form of aggression and frustration is the only cause of aggression  Frustration occurs whenever an individual’s efforts to obtain a desired goal are interfered with/blocked o Ex. As a result of being frustrated, the “teacher” took the opportunity to harm the “learner”—both frustration conditions produced equally high levels of aggression o Factors other than frustration (anger) can also cause aggression Hovland and Sears, 1940 o Lynching’s in American South during 1882-1930 negatively related to cotton prices o Later analyses found that lynching’s were highest when recession followed a period of economic well-being Displaced Aggression harm-doing that is directed at someone/something that was not the actual source of frustration  Even when frustration does lead to aggression, people may not direct their aggression toward the actual source  It may be unwise/dangerous to do so, or may not be possible to do so  Often occurs in response to a minor triggering frustration  Triggered displaced aggression may often be far more intense than would be expected from the relatively minor trigger o Ex. Someone experiences frustration at work, cant take out on boss, hits someone at dinner table that was slightly annoying Catharsis the idea that aggressive behaviour releases people’s pent-up frustration and reduces the likelihood of subsequent aggression  Most experiments have not found the effect to be reliable  sometimes the opposite effect is found—usually serves to heighten subsequent aggression  Why? Any aggression in a situation makes subsequent aggression seem more appropriate: a norm is established that aggression is permissible  Why? Initial act of aggression leads people to see themselves as aggressive Excitation Transfer Excitation transfer the idea that physiological arousal from sources other than frustration or anger can be linked to anger-related thoughts and cognitions, thereby increasing aggression  Begins w/ assumption that aversive arousal leads to aggression  Excitation transfer can increase aggressive behaviour when people are no longer consciously aware of a state of arousal  The passage of time (cooling off), listening to soothing music, distracting oneself w/ pleasant things may reduce aggression by reducing aversive arousal  Many situations that don't involve anger/frustration can arouse a person: exercise, sporting events, exposure to sexually themed material o Ex. Participants exposed to procedure that elicited anger/did not, followed by vigorous or quiet motor activity when participants both angered and spent intervening time on bicycle, a high level of aggression was produced—arousal produced by riding the bicycle was labeled as anger/became attached to the participant’s anger Emotional Arousal and Attraction  Emotional arousal can intensify attraction Dutton & Aron, 1974 o Male participants interviewed by female experimenter on bridge, some interviewed while walking over wobbly suspension bridge, others interviewed before they went on bridge o Those interviewed on wobbly bridge more likely to call female experimenter b/c participants mislabeled physiological arousal from fear as attraction to experimenter Social learning theory an approach proposing that humans learn many kinds of responses, including aggressive ones, by observing others; observation shows people both how to perform a behaviour and whether that behaviour will be rewarded/punished  Direct rewards (e.g., father buys son ice cream after winning fight), observing others being rewarded (e.g., TV character wins over girl after killing people)  People often learn aggressive behaviours by observing others being rewarded for aggressive actions, and then imitate/model those responses o Ex. Hockey players exhibit more aggression b/c norms of hockey treat fighting as an acceptable behaviour, so players use it to release frustration and to intimidate other players Cognitive neoassociation model a theory of harm-doing proposing that aversive events activate the schemas for fight and flight, which elicit the emotions of anger and fear; whether people respond w/ aggression or escape depends on the patterns of cues in the situation (some elicit aggression, others elicit escape)  Unpleasant experiences  negative feelings  angry thoughts + associations  fight  Unpleasant experiences  negative feelings  fearful thoughts + associations  flight  Cues that will activate anger and aggression: guns, knives, aggressive song lyrics, violent movies, insulting phrases, hostile symbols o Ex. The extent of retaliation to seven shocks was significantly greater when weapons were present than when they were absent 70 Turner et al., 1975 60 o Pickup truck remained sitting @ traffic light to see if 50 motorists would honk (aggressive response), 3 conditions: control, rifle only: military rifle in gun 40 30 rack sitting in back of truck, rifle and sticker: truck 20 also had sticker that said “vengeance” 10 0 Influences on Aggression Control Rifle Only Rifle & Sticker Individual Differences Narcissism  Excessive love of the self makes people defensive about criticism that threatens their high ego  Threatened egotism—often respond with hostility and aggression Trait Aggressiveness a disposition that represents how likely people are to respond to provocations with aggression  The aggression questionnaire (AQ) is a scale used to measure individual differences in trait aggressiveness  Do people who score high on the AQ also possess more elaborate schemas related to aggression? Yes Personality Types  Some people are predisposed to experience aversive arousal often Type A Coronary-Prone Behaviour Pattern a group of personality characteristics, including time urgency, impatience, competitiveness and hostility  Associated w/ higher risk for coronary disease, more business success, conflict w/ subordinates, more aggressive driving Executive Functioning higher-order cognitive processing that organizes and coordinates lower- level elements of behaviour such as planning and monitoring progress toward goals  Controlled by frontal lobes of brain  Poor performance on measures of executive functioning is associated w/ more aggression in response to provocation  People w/ poor executive functioning have difficulty processing multiple pieces of information simultaneously, therefore they fail to notice cues in the setting that typically inhibit aggression o Ex. When the alleged partner’s behaviour was more provocative, participants w/ poor executive functioning were more aggressive Alcohol  Increases aggression  Both men and women become more aggressive—stronger effect on men  Why? o Alcohol is a depressant—normal inhibitions about aggression reduced o Changes thought, perception, and interpretation o Produces narrowing of attention (alcohol myopia) o Reduced individuals’ physiological stress-responses to threats—when faced w/ provoking situation, intoxicated individuals don’t experience their typical level of fear about being punished for aggressive response Aversive Arousal and Aggression  Any state of aversive emotional arousal (pain, fear, annoyance, anger) can increase likelihood of aggression Berkowitz, 1993 o Students asked to place hands in painfully cold water or water closer to room temp o Then able to deliver electric shocks to another student if they wished—cold water participants more likely to administer shock to student Heat  Aggressive behaviour more likely when it is hot (horn-honking, assaults, murders, riots, major league pitchers hitting batters w/ ball)  People become more aggressive as temp increases, but only to a certain point  Once it reaches that point, it goes down—people may want to escape the heat, or energy is sapped  Heat makes people uncomfortable and angry, causing aversive arousal that contributes to aggressive behaviour  Activates cognitive schemas of aggression/violence The Social Context of Aggression Culture and Aggression  Considerable variability in the violence of different cultures  Of all of the industrial nations around the world, the US has the highest rate of homicides—b/c of the ease of obtaining firearms perhaps  Homicide rate is greater in Southern parts of country—due maybe to differences in climate, deeper poverty Aggression on the Playground  Anger emerges a
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