SOCIAL PSYCH CHAPTER 13 SUMMARY
Explanations for aggression depend on whether it was hostile or instrumental
Hostile aggression = behavior intended to harm another - physically or
psychologically - motivated by feelings of anger & hostility. I.e. genocides
Instrumental aggression = behavior intended to harm another in the service
of motives other than pure hostility (i.e. attract attention, acquire wealth,
advance pol./social causes, gain status).
Many acts of aggression involve a mix of the 2 styles i.e. do aggressive act
(punch) for instrumental reasons.
SITUATIONAL DETERMINANTS OF AGGRESSION
Consider situational factors to understand why aggression occurs - not only
ppl’s personal tendencies. I.e. certain genes may predispose ppl to
aggression but they’re only activated in specific circumstances.
Factors leading to aggression...
Moods & actions related to weather.
Anger raises body temperature bc of the increase of blood distribution in the
Early 19th c.: violent crime rates higher in southern France & Italy than in
northern parts of the countries. Other factors also involved.
Craig Anderson - Evidence that higher-than-normal temp. ass. w/ increase in
-higher rates of violent crimes in hotter regions
-examined crime rates of 260 cities in USA: identified # of days 90+
degrees. The # of hot days = strong predictor of elevated violent crime
rates but not nonviolent rates.
-true even w/ controlled variables (unemployment, income, average age)
Ppl + violent during hot moths than cold ones (except December bc of
Murder & rape increase during summer.
Study: major league baseball pitchers + likely to hit batters as weather gets
hotter. Esp. true when pitcher’s teammate has been hit by the opposite
pitcher earlier in the game. This effect can’t be attributed to reduced
competence; neither wild pitches/walks go up w/ temp.
Global warming: as temp. rises, ppl might expect to see increases in violence
in the world?
Study: data from past 50 yrs. During El Niño yrs in tropical countries -
whether esp. hot & dry - the likelihood of civil conflict increased dramatically.
Why heat makes ppl + aggressive? Attributional processes.
-misattribution perspective = ppl are aroused by the heat but unaware it’s
the source of their arousal. SOCIAL PSYCH CHAPTER 13 SUMMARY
-when encounter circumstances prompting anger = attribute anger to that
person & this misattribution arousal gives rise to amplified feelings of
-heat may trigger not just undifferentiated arousal, but specific feelings of
anger esp. anger increasing likelihood of aggressive behaviors.
Exposure to media violence increases aggressive behavior.
Copycat violence = imitation of specific violent acts depicted in the media.
I.e. when Hickley tried to kill president Reagan by shooting him. Copycat
violence inspired from Taxi Driver
Laboratory studies examined effects of exposure to media violence
aggression immediately afterwards.
Studies: participants view aggressive film & then given opportunity to act
aggressively. Results show that watching aggressive films does make ppl
more aggressive. Short-term effect.
-one study showed that watching aggressive films compared to control gr. of
juvenile delinquents staying at a minimum-security penal institution more
-another study; male college students behaved + aggressively toward
woman when they where angered & exposed to violent media imagery.
-exposure to violent pornography increased aggression towards women.
The control of kinds of violent media participants view discovered which
types of media violence + likely to lead to aggression: when identify w/ the
perpetrator of the violent act, when media portrays justified violence (like
against bad ppl).
When participants led to focus away from aggressive content = less
Long-term effects study:
-assessed TV viewing habits of 211 boys in Columbia County from childhood
to adulthood. Wanted to see if each boy’s preference for violent TV at 8 yrs
old predicted criminal activity by 30 yrs old.
-potential problem w/ study = maybe aggressive boys at 8 preferred
aggressive TV? Controlled the variable of how aggressive the child was at 8.
-children preferring to watch violent Tv at 8 = + likely to engage in criminal
activities by 30.
Violent Video Games
2 video games addicts - Eric Harris & Dylan Klebold. Later, their life actions
mimicked the video games. They planted bombs & took guns to school and
killed 12 classmates and 1 teacher, injured 23 students, and killed
Study: 43 undergrads w/ average amount of video game experience were
randomly assigned to play 1 of 2 games. Mortal Combat vs PGA Tournament
of Golf. SOCIAL PSYCH CHAPTER 13 SUMMARY
-all played few rounds vs a confederate. When lost, they were punished w/ a
burst of white noise. When won, they punished the confederate w/ the white
-ppl playing Mortal Combat gave longer & more intense bursts of white
Review of 35 similar studies - 5 disturbing effects of violent video games: (1)
increases aggressive behavior, (2) reduces prosocial behavior like helping or
altruism, (3) increases aggressive thoughts, (4) increases aggressive
emotions, & (5) increases blood pressure and heart rate. Observed in
children & adults, both genders.
Social Rejection and Aggression
Social rejection can lead to aggression.
Throughout human evolution, social rejection could lead to death bc of the
dependence on group for basic needs. Given the many evolutionary
advantages to being integrated into groups, social rejection activates a
threat defense syst. involving stress-related cardiovascular arousal, release
of cortisol = distress & pain leading to defensive aggressive tendencies.
Early in primate evolution, threat defense syst. linked to physical aggression
& helped in aggressive encounters (like being attacked).
As humans evolved, social cues (gossip, eye roll, criticism, etc.) got power to
trigger the threat defense syst. & its ass. feelings and tendencies, including
Social rejection stimulates feelings of pain.
Study: painful consequences of rejection.
-ball-tossing paradigm: one participant plays a ball-tossing game w/ 2
confederates. At a predetermined time in the experiment, the 2
confederates stop throwing the ball to the participant and play b/w each
other during 5 min. Being rejected in this game triggers feelings of distress,
shame, self-doubt, and a submissive/slouched posture.
Study: neuroimaging study
-participants believed they were playing ball-tossing w/ 2 other ppl (but was
actually vs a computer). When experienced virtual form of rejection, fMRI
showed region of brain called anterior cingulate lighting up (where physical
painful stimuli is processed).
Study: found that acetaminophen - active ingredient in Tylenol - diminishes
social pain just as much as physical pain.
Ppl reporting chronic sense of rejection are + likely to act aggressively in
romantic relshps, even w/ physical abuse.
Study: ppl who were led to image a lonely, socially rejected future,
compared w/ control ppl, were + likely to administer unpleasant noise blasts
to strangers who had nothing to do w/ their sense of rejection.
Economic inequality increases violence. SOCIAL PSYCH CHAPTER 13 SUMMARY
Study: measure the degree of inequality in terms of diff. in % of wealth
owned by the richest in society (usu the top 20%) vs the poorest (usu the
bottom 20%). Then look if regional inequality corr. w/ prevalence of diff. kinds
crimes. It does.
-countries w/ high economic inequality, the average citizen + likely to be a
victim of crime than in countries w/ less economic inequality.
-kids in countries w/ bigger inequality are + likely to experience conflict w/
their peers & report being victims of bullying.
-same goes when classifying states in US.
Why this connection b/w income & violence?
-powerful feelings of social rejection from ppl at the bottom of unequal
-inequality undermines cohesiveness of a place = the feeling of trust &
goodwill individuals have toward one another. More violent crimes occur in
less cohesive neighborhoods.
-evolutionary psychologists: inequality throws males into competition for
economic resources & access to females; 2 sources of conflict.
CONSTRUAL PROCESSES AND AGGRESSION
Sit. do nothing by themselves, their influence is channeled through construal
processes. I.e. many ppl live in extreme heat cond., are socially rejected, are
poorer, watch Tv & play video games and are not aggressive.
Seeing the world through lens of anger is a powerful cause of aggressive
The Frustration-Aggression Hypothesis
The determinant of aggression is frustration. Ppl act aggressively (or desire
to do so) when they feel thwarted in their attempt to reach a goal.
Aggression increases in direct proportion to (1) the amount of satisfaction
the person anticipates receiving from meeting the goal (b4 it’s blocked), (2)
how completely the person is prevented
from achieving the goal, (3) how frequently the person is blocked from
achieving the goal, & (4) how close the person believes is to achieving the
Study: illustrating some of these principles. Confederate cut in front of movie
-one cond.: target was twelfth in line, another cond.: target was 2nd in
line, /b to buy ticket = closer to 2 hours of anticipated pleasure.
-target 2nd in line much + aggressive by being cut.
Critiques of the Frustration-Aggression Hypothesis
This hyp. is an important 1st step to understand aggression but has
Not all aggressive behaviors come from a threat to a goal. Aggression can
follow a stimuli that do not directly block goal-directed behavior. I.e. when SOCIAL PSYCH CHAPTER 13 SUMMARY
ppl are exposed to higher lvls of pollutions, they are + likely to act
Some forms of instrumental aggression like bullying don’t come from a
blocked goal. I.e. bully towards a goal like getting attention, raising status, to
show off, etc.
Frustration doesn’t necessarily lead to aggression. Depends on how ppl
construes the source of frustration.
Learned helplessness : passive & depressed responses that ppl show when
their goals are blocked & they feel they have no control over their outcomes.
Studies: dogs were shocked & prevented from escaping pain. After repeated
exposure to this uncontrollable negative stimulus, they didn’t react w/
aggression but got into a pitiable state of helplessness & resignation.
A Neo-Associationistic Account of Aggression
The 2 critiques of the frustration-aggression hyp. show how imp. construals
processes for aggressive behavior. Not just having goals blocked - how we
interpret events that block them.
Acts that we construe as having been intentionally harmful are + likely to
make us aggressive as equally harmful acts that we construe as accidental.
Neo-associationistic account of aggression = anger-related construals are the
key process making ppl respond aggressively to aversive stimuli.
Study: any aversive event can elicit aggressive response (i.e. hunger,
fatigue, humiliation, etc.)
-participants who held their arms horizontally for painful minutes had
harsher, + hostile assessments of their mothers & romantic partners than
-critical determinant = event producing unpleasant feelings of anger. Anger
is ass. w/ bad thoughts & once activated it makes intentional harm against
others = aggression, + likely.
I.e. Aversive Event (pain, heat, goals blocked) = Anger (perceived injustice,
thoughts of attack, elevated arousal) = Aggression (attacking physically,
harming someone emotionally).
Weapons and Violence
Guns are powerful cues priming anger-related construals making aggression
Study: said it was /b “effects of physiological stress upon work”. Subject &
confederate worked on a series of problems & took turns “evaluating each
other’s performance”. Did so by giving b/w 1 & 10 shocks, having been
instructed to deliver + shocks for performances that needed most
- subjects worked on problem first. Unknown to subjects, confederate gave
shocks on whether they were in the neutral or anger condition.
-shocked ppl in neutral cond. once, and in anger cond. 7 times.
-subjects than watched confederate work on problems & gave evaluation of
the performance in