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PSYC 241 Ch11 Aggression.pdf

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PSYC 241
Roderick C L Lindsay

PSYC  241  –  Aggression     Chapter  11   Aggression     Aggression:  behaviour  that  is  intended  to  harm  an  individual.     There  is  a  large  range  of  what  can  be  considered  aggression.  This  includes  aggressive  words,   deeds,  spreading  of  rumors,  or  failing  to  help  someone  out  of  a  humiliating  situation.       Violence:  extreme  acts  of  aggression.       Aggression  is  often  linked  to  negative  feelings  such  as  anger  and  hostility.  However  it  is  important   to  note  that  just  because  someone  is  angry  or  hostile  this  does  not  mean  that  they  will  act   aggressively.  Alternatively,  if  someone  has  acted  aggressively  they  may  have  done  so  without   feelings  of  anger  or  hostility  behind  their  actions.       Anger:  strong  feelings  of  displeasure  in  response  to  a  perceived  injury.     Hostility:  negative,  antagonistic  attitude  toward  another  person  or  group.       Instrumental  aggression  (also  called  proactive  aggression):  inflicting  harm  as  a  means  to  get   what  one  wants,  such  as  a  particular  outcome  or  something  of  value.  This  is  used  as  a  means  for  a   desired  end.  It  can  be  used  for  personal  gain,  attention,  or  even  self-­‐defense.  Examples:   • Hurting  someone  while  robbing  a  bank  (personal  gain)   • Suicide  bombing  to  benefit  a  political  cause  (attention)   • Injuring  someone  who  is  attacking  you  (self-­‐defense)     Emotional  aggression  (also  called  reactive  aggression):  inflicting  harm  for  its  own  sake.  This  is   usually  carried  out  in  the  heat  of  the  moment  as  an  impulsive  act  but  can  also  be  premeditated  and   calculated.  Examples:   • Physical  violence  during  a  fight  between  a  couple   • Rioting  against  rival  sports  teams  after  a  rough  loss   • Revenge  (this  is  an  example  of  a  drawn-­‐out  and  calculated  form  of  emotional  aggression)     Sometimes  it  is  hard  to  draw  the  line  between  instrumental  and  emotional  aggression.  Some   researchers  argue  that  all  aggression  is  instrumental,  as  at  some  level  it  serves  to  fulfill  some  need.   Others  argue  that  the  two  forms  are  endpoints  on  a  continuum.  I  include  this  not  because  it  seems   central  to  the  text  but  because  it  is  an  interesting  idea  and  as  a  reminder  to  be  flexible  in  viewing   reasons  for  aggression,  actions,  and  motives.     Culture,  Gender,  and  Individual  Differences     Violent  crime  is  about  double  in  the  Americas  than  in  the  rest  of  the  world.  Researchers  believe   this  could  be  due  to  the  higher  rates  of  single  parenthood,  which  is  correlated  to  violent  crime.       Individualistic  cultures  tend  to  be  much  more  aggressive  than  collectivist  cultures.   1   PSYC  241  –  Aggression     The  type  of  violence  varies  between  cultures.  For  example,  gun-­‐related  crimes  are  much  higher  in   the  United  States  than  even  in  culturally  similar  places  such  as  Australia.  In  general  the  United   States  has  more  permissive  and  positive  views  of  guns  than  other  places  do.       In  the  United  States  violent  crimes  usually  occur  at  the  individual  level.  Crimes  associated  with   political,  ethic,  or  institutional  conflicts  are  seen  more  often  in  the  Middle  East,  Africa,  Eastern   Europe,  and  parts  of  South  America.  Riots  after  European  football  games  spark  aggression  that  is   rarely  seen  in  the  United  States.       Different  permissive  attitudes  can  affect  behaviours.  For  example,  it  is  not  uncommon  for  adult   businessmen  in  Japan  to  grope  young  schoolgirls  on  public  transportation.  This  would  be  viewed   as  aggression  in  other  places,  including  the  much  more  violent  United  States.       There  are  a  handful  of  cultures  that  are  nonviolent.  This  includes  entire  regions  of  people  who   have  no  words  in  their  language  for  violence,  hatred  or  warfare.  Interestingly  there  are  nonviolent   groups,  such  as  Mennonites  and  the  Amish,  who  reside  in  violent  areas  such  as  the  United  States   and  Canada.  These  societies  claim  that  the  secret  is  in  promoting  cooperation  in  all  aspects  of  life   and  removing  competition.       Teenagers  and  young  adults  are  more  often  offenders  and  victims  of  violent  crimes.       African  Americans  have  a  relatively  violent  subculture.  49%  of  murders  in  the  United  States  in   2005  were  committed  by  African  Americans.  This  is  a  large  number  seeing  as  African  Americans   make  up  only  13%  of  the  United  States’  population.  It  is  important  to  note  that  violent  crimes  are   most  likely  to  occur  intraracially  –  of  the  murders  committed  by  African  Americans,  93%  of  the   victims  were  also  African  American.       Men  are  consistently  more  violent  than  women  (serious  acts  of  aggression  such  as  homicide).  Men   are  more  often  physically  aggressive,  whereas  women  are  more  verbally  aggressive.     Relational  aggression:  an  indirect  form  of  aggression  designed  to  sabotage  another  person’s   relationships  and/or  social  status.  This  is  most  common  among  girls  and  women.  Examples:   • Threatening  to  a  friendship   • Gossip  and  spreading  of  rumors   • Trying  to  get  others  to  dislike  an  individual   • Exclusion     Situational  variables  will  change  and  do  affect  an  individual,  but  despite  this  aggression  tends  to   be  stable  in  an  individual  over  time.       There  are  certain  traits  that  are  predictive  of  aggression  most  of  the  time.  There  are  other  traits   that  are  predictive  of  aggression  only  when  the  individual  is  in  a  stressful  or  aversive  situation.   These  are  illustrated  in  the  chart  on  the  next  page.       2   PSYC  241  –  Aggression     Stable  traits  that  predict  aggression   Traits  that  predict  aggression  in  specific  situations   -­‐Hostile  cognitions   -­‐Emotional  susceptibility   -­‐Expressing  of  anger   -­‐Narcissism   -­‐Expressing  of  irritability   -­‐Type  A  personality   -­‐Impulsivity     Emotional  susceptibility:  tendency  to  feel  distressed,  inadequate,  or  vulnerable  to  perceived   threats.       Narcissism:  inflated  sense  of  self-­‐worth  or  self-­‐love  without  a  strong  set  of  beliefs  to  support   these  feelings,  thereby  leaving  the  person’s  self-­‐esteem  unstable  and  sensitive  to  criticism.       Type  A  personality:  tendency  to  feel  inadequate  and  try  to  prove  oneself  through  personal   accomplishments.       Think  of  the  right  hand  column  as  a  fuse.  When  someone  has  a  combination  of  the  traits,  they  have   a  shorter  fuse.  This  means  they  are  no  more  likely  to  be  aggressive  when  there  is  no  “spark”  (no   stressful  or  aversive  situation)  but  if  they  are  in  the  presence  of  a  trigger  they  are  much  more   likely  to  explode  in  your  face.       Origins  of  Aggression     There  are  many  different  approaches  in  the  nature-­‐nurture  debate  on  the  origins  of  aggression.   These  will  serve  as  subheadings.  Note  that  some  suggest  that  aggression  is  innate  and  others   suggest  that  it  is  learned.  I  will  use  [~]  to  mark  the  shift  from  the  former  to  the  latter  in  the   theories.  It  is  important  to  remember  that  these  are  perspectives  that  may  paint  some  of  the   picture  but  that  they  may  not  all  be  hard-­‐and-­‐fast  truth.       Evolutionary  psychology.   Individuals  who  could  fight  were  more  likely  to  survive.  They  were  therefore  more  likely  to  be   chosen  as  mates  and/or  to  belong  to  the  group.       There  is  an  important  catch  to  this  theory  that  is  important  to  recognize:  if  we  are  aggressive  as  a   function  of  evolutionary  survival,  we  should  be  less  likely  to  harm  those  that  are  genetically   related  to  ourselves.  This  has  been  demonstrated  in  case  studies.  Children  as  less  likely  to  be   abused  by  a  parent  than  a  step  parent.       Since  females  are  the  choosier  sex  when  it  comes  to  mate  selection  males  are  more  likely  to  be   aggressive.  It  gives  them  a  better  chance  at  being  selected  as  a  partner.  Men  are  also  predisposed   to  sexual  jealousy  (because  the  women  are  more  choosy  and  they  can  never  be  sure  that  the   offspring  is  theirs),  which  can  precipitate  aggression.  These  ideas  have  been  supported  by  actual   crime  statistics:   • Male-­‐to-­‐male  violence  is  more  likely  when  one  is  challenging  the  status  of  the  other,   competing  for  resources,  or  making  perceived  attempts  to  humiliate  the  other.   • Male-­‐to-­‐female  violence  is  mostly  motivated  by  sexual  jealousy.     3   PSYC  241  –  Aggression     Females  are  evolutionarily  predisposed  to  aggress  when  it  comes  to  protecting  their  children.   Since  they  did  not  need  to  aggress  to  attract  males  they  are  more  likely  to  use  less  overt   aggression,  such  as  relational  and  indirect  aggression.  Females  are  also  more  likely  to  sabotage  the   reputation  of  other  females  in  order  to  get  more  suitors  for  themselves.       Behaviour  genetics.     This  focuses  on  the  relationship  between  genetic  transmission  and  behaviour.  Aggression  is   shown  to  be  mildly  heritable.     Aggression  tends  to  be  stable  over  time.  Children  that  are  aggressive  are  likely  to  be  so  throughout   their  lifetimes.       Testosterone.   There  is  a  correlational  relationship  between  testosterone  and  aggression,  but  no  causal   relationship  has  been  proven.     • Aggression  can  cause  an  increase  in  testosterone.     • Stress  can  cause  an  increase  in  testosterone.  Stress  may  also  make  aggression  more  likely,   so  it  could  be  a  causal  intermediate.     Serotonin.     One  of  the  functions  of  serotonin  is  to  inhibit  impulsive  acts  such  as  aggression.  There  appears  to   be  a  negative  correlation:  low  levels  of  serotonin  is  associated  with  high  levels  of  aggression.       The  brain  and  executive  functioning.     Abnormalities  in  the  frontal  lobe  have  been  associated  with  aggressive  and  violent  behaviour.  The   prefrontal  cortex  is  of  particular  interest  in  this  respect.  It’s  normal  function  is  in  executive   functioning  –  planning  ahead,  controlling  behaviours,  etc.  When  the  prefrontal  cortex  is  damaged   there  is  less  inhibition  of  aggressive  behaviours.  There  is  therefore  a  negative  correlation  between   executive  functioning  and  aggressive  behaviour.       Teenagers  were  shown  a  video  of  someone  experiencing  pain.  The  teenagers  were  preidentified  as   “healthy”  or  “aggressive”.  The  healthy  teenagers  had  activation  in  the  areas  of  the  brain  associated   with  empathy.  The  aggressive  teenagers  experienced  activation  in  the  reward  centres  of  the  brain.       [~]     The  above  theories  offer  that  aggression  is  innate.  There  is  clearly  merit  to  some  of  the  findings  as   they  are  supported  by  research.  Regardless  of  what  biological  influences  there  may  be  it  is   undeniable  that  aggression,  to  some  extent,  is  strongly  influenced  by  social  factors.     Aggression  can  be  both  positively  and  negatively  reinforcing.     • Instrumental  aggression  gets  you  what  you  want.   • Aggression  can  lead  away  from  negative  outcomes,  such  as  being  bullied.   • Children  who  see  aggression  as  getting  them  desirable  outcomes  and  taking  away   undesirable  outcomes  are  more  likely  to  be  aggressive.   4   PSYC  241  –  Aggression       Punishment  decreases  aggression  when  it:   • Immediately  follows  the  behaviour   • Is  strong  enough  to  deter  the  aggressor   • Is  consistently  applied   • Is  seen  as  fair     The  last  two  points  are  very  important.  Certainty  of  punishment  is  more  important  than  severity.   Also,  punishment  that  seems  unreasonable  for  the  crime  is  likely  to  cause  retaliation  instead  of   rehabilitation.       Corporal  punishment:  physical  force  intended  to  cause  a  child  pain  but  not  injure  them  in   response  to  bad  behaviour.   • There  is  a  positive  correlation  between  corporal  punishment  and  aggression  in  children.   Spanking  the  child  shows  them  that  that  is  a  way  to  get  people  to  do  what  you  want  or  to   stop  from  doing  something  you  don’t  like.     • This  correlation  is  not  observed  when  the  corporal  punishment  is  administered  in  an   overall  warm  and  supportive  parent-­‐child  relationship.     Social  learning  theory.  I  will  start  with  an  anecdote  from  the  text.  One  of  the  authors  spent  most   afternoons  in  high  school  playing  football  or  hockey.  Although  they  were  rough,  the  group  of  boys   never  fought  when  playing  football,  and  yet  it  was  rare  if  they  didn’t  fight  during  a  game  of  hockey.   On  television  it  is  uncommon  for  football  players  to  stop  and  fight  and  it  is  rare  for  a  hockey  game   not  to  have  a  fight.       Social  learning  theory:  theory  that  behaviour  is  learned  through  observation  of  others  as  well  as   through  direct  experience  of  rewards  and  punishments.       We  learn  to  develop  scripts  on  how  to  deal  with  particular  situations.  Observing  aggression  from  a   role  model  and/or  seeing  that  behaviour  reinforced  can  cause  someone  to  integrate  aggression   into  their  own  script.  This  has  been  supported  by  numerous  studies:   • Europeans  in  the  NHL  are  less  likely  to  get  roughing  (and  other  aggressive)  penalties  than   their  North  American  counterparts     • Among  violent  offenders:  93%  had  seen  someone  beaten,  77%  had  seen  someone  killed,   and  more  than  75%  had  lost  a  close  friend  to  an  act  of  violence.     Gender  differences.   Males  and  females  are  taught  different  lessons  about  aggression,  socialized  to  fit  different  roles   when  it  comes  to  aggression,  and  are  reinforced  or  punished  differently  for  aggressive  acts.       In  elementary  school,  boys  who  are  physically  aggressive  are  more  likely  to  be  popular  than  their   pacifist  peers.  Girls  would  be  ridiculed  for  such  violence,  but  themselves  are  reinforced  with   popularity  if  they  use  relational  aggression  to  boost  social  status.         5   PSYC  241  –  Aggression         Culture  and  Socialization.   Americans  are  more  accepting  of  aggression  than  members  of  other  cultures.  Hispanic  children   that  immigrated  to  America  were  more  accepting  of  aggression  the  longer  they  had  been  in  the   States.       Machismo:  adversity  must  be  met  with  aggression.  Cultures  that  subscribe  to  this  notion  are   called  cultures  of  honor.     A  culture  of  honor  means  using  aggression  to  protect  your  honor  at  even  the  smallest  challenges.   Individuals  within  these  cultures  are  no  more  likely  to  accept  violence  that  is  unrelated  to   protecting  your  honor.  Men  in  the  American  South  are  an  example.  More  of  them  accepted  the   “right  to  kill”  anyone  who  threatens  your  home  or  family  compared  to  Northerners.     • In  an  experiment  researchers  sent  fictitious  letters  to  employers  in  the  North  and  the   South.  In  some  the  applicant  admitted  that  he  was  a  convicted  killer,  having  “impulsively   killed  a  man  that  was  having  an  affair  with  my  fiancée  and  then  insulted  me,”  and  in  the   others  that  he  stole  a  car  to  pay  off  a  debt.     • The  employers  in  the  South  were  more  lenient  to  the  convicted  killer  than  to  the  car  thief!       Situational  Influences  on  Aggression     The  following  situational  influences  on  aggression  will  be  covered  in  this  section.  They  can  mean   the  difference  between  exhibiting  and  expression  aggression:   • Frustration   • Negative  affect   • Arousal   • Thought     Frustration.     Frustration-­‐aggression  hypothesis:  asserts  the  following  two  principles.     1. Frustration  –  which  is  produced  by  interrupting  a  person’s  progress  toward  an  expected   goal  –  will  always  elicit  the  motive  to  aggress.   2. All  aggression  is  caused  by  frustration.       It  is  important  to  note  that  the  hypothesis  has  been  disproven.  Not  everyone  who  is  frustrated   reacts  aggressively  and  there  are  certainly  causes  of  aggression  besides  frustration.     The  hypothesis  goes  on  to  say  that  aggression  is  a  drive  just  as  hunger  and  sex  are.  Just  as  food   deprivation  elicits  a  hunger  drive,  frustration  elicits  an  aggression  drive.  This  doesn’t  seem  right.   There  are  plenty  of  times  when  we  are  frustrated,  such  as  with  a  boss  or  with  the  state  of  our   health,  and  we  do  not  act  aggressively.  What  gives?  Dollard  believes  that  the  aggressive  drive  can   seep  out  in  the  form  of  displacement.     6   PSYC  241  –  Aggression     Displacement:  aggressing  against  a  substitute  target  when  it  is  inappropriate  or  impossible  to   aggress  against  the  actual  source  of  the  frustration.  Dollard  argues  that  displacement  can  bring   catharsis  without  serious  repercussions.     What  about  catharsis?  Is  “letting  out  frustrations”  in  aggressive  sports  or  by  displacement  a   healthy  way  to  reduce  aggressive  tendencies?  The  answer  is  no.  There  are  several  reasons  why   this  is:   • Recall  the  social  learning  theory.  When  we  engage  in  models  of  acceptable  aggression  we   are  increasing  our  arousal  (not  decreasing  it  –  making  things  worse)  and  we  are  viewing   aggression  more  positively.     • If  letting  out  the  aggression  helps  the  person  calm  down  then  this  is  reinforcing  for  future   aggression.  If  it  does  not  help  the  person  calm  down  they  are  more  likely  to  engage  in   senseless  aggression.   • If  you  believe  in  catharsis  the  control  you  are  exerting  by  punching  a  bag  or  screaming  may   help,  but  it  can  also  increase  arousal  and  make  you  feel  worse.     Negative  affect.     Most  aggression  can  be  linked  to  a  provocation.  The  negative  affect  elicited  by  the  provocation  can   trigger  aggression.     There  is  a  correlation  between  temperature  and  aggression.  Most  aggressive  acts  occur  in  the   summer  months.  Even  in  controlled  lab  settings  participants  are  more  likely  to  interpret   ambiguous  events  as  being  hostile  when  the  temperature  is  turned  up.     Social  rejection  causes  marked  negative  affect.  It  has  also  been  linked  to  aggression.  Think  about   school  shootings  by  students  who  were  constantly  bullied.       If  negative  affect  can  contribute  to  aggression,  positive  affect  and  empathy  appear  to  be  the   antidote.  Participants  who  were  rejected  by  a  confederate  were  less  likely  to  “deliver  electric   shocks”  to  them  in  a  later  condition  if  they  had  been  shown  funny  pictures  in  between  conditions.     Arousal.   This  goes  back  to  excitation  transfer:  the  arousal  created  by  one  stimulus  increases  the  arousal   to  another  stimulus.  Physical  exercise,  noise,  violent  movies,  heat,  arousing  music  –  all  of  these   things  arouse  us  and  can  cause  us  to  be  more  aggressive.     Thought.   Some  thoughts  that  lead  to  aggression  are  automatic  and  some  are  deliberate.     Weapons  effect:  the  mere  presence  of  a  weapon  increases  aggressiveness.  For  examples:   • Participants  were  more  likely  to  deliver  a  confederate  with  “electric  shocks”  when  there   was  a  revolver  and  rifle  in  the  room  more  so  than  when  there  was  a  badminton  racket  and   shuttlecock  in  the  room.     • In  another  study  hunters  and  nonhunters  were  shown  hunting  rifles  and  assault  rifles.   Hunters  had  more  positive  feelings  toward  the  hunting  rifles  than  the  nonhunters.  The   nonhunters  behaved  more  aggressively  in  the  presence  of  hunting  rifles.  The  opposite  was   7   PSYC  241  –  Aggression     true  with  assault  rifles;  nonhunters  viewed  them  more  positively  and  hunters  acted  more   aggressive  around  them.     • The  presence  of  weapons  increases  testosterone  levels.     The  following  act  as  situational  cues  for  aggression:   • Any  object  or  characteristic  that  is  associated  with  successful  agg
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