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Psychology 2720A/B CHP 11: Aggression and Violence

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Western University
Psychology 2720A/B
Clive Seligman

CHP 11: Aggression and Violence DEFINITION AND VARITIES OF AGGRESSION - When talking about aggression, psychologist refer specifically to behaviour (thoughts/attitudes can lead to aggression but they are not a form of it) - Harm or potential harm is involved in all cases of aggression – but not all harm doing = aggression - Aggression: behaviour that is intended to injure someone physically or psychologically - Violence: aggression intended to cause extreme injury o Violence is always aggression but not all aggression is violence o Shooting/stabbing = aggression & violence, insulting/pushing = aggression but NOT violence Hostile and Instrumental Aggression - Hostile Aggression: harm-doing that arises out of negative emotions such as anger, frustration, or hatred o Often impulsive, primary goal = to hurt target - Instrumental Aggression: harm doing that is motivated by goals other than hurting the target, such as obtaining something of value / teaching lesson o E.g. spanking a child to get them to behave, knocking someone down to rob them - Aggressive behaviour can be caused by several factors at once – most acts reflect some mix of anger and a desire to achieve distant goals IN YOUR LIFE: Is Corporal Punishment Effective? - Spanking is effective in achieving immediate compliance, does not produce long term compliance - Negative effects: greater aggression, higher degrees of delinquent/antisocial behaviour, lower-quality parent-child relationship, lower mental health, increased chance of physical abuse (almost all correlational) - Another reason not to spank: children imitate adults aggressive behaviour - Timeouts, suspension of privileges and grounding are more effective Relational Aggression - Relational aggression: behaviour that is intended to damage another persons peer relationships o Commonly used by females – social exclusion/rumour spreading o Leaves no physical damage but hurts psychologically - Study found (age 4-5): boys engaged in more overt (physical) aggression, girls more relational aggression – 12% boys 3% girls – physical, 26% only girls relational - One result of using relational aggression, others may dislike you – associated with peer rejection and antisocial personality - Other times it can cause popularity – people may be seen as clever 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 - See picture on pg 423 - Pulls together 5 theoretical traditions: Biological Influences On Aggression - Anger-induced physiological arousal is spontaneous and innate – people do not have to “learn” to feel this state Hormonal Activity and Aggression. - Clearest evidence is with possible role of testosterone – prisoners with more violent crime records had higher testosterone Levels o May help partially explain gender difference in aggression o Men commit 70-90% of the murder in the world o Levels of testosterone peak mid-20s, same as changes in violent crimes o Some researchers think aggressive behaviour may increase testosterone levels (reverse effect) Evolutionary Processes. - Proposed the human tendency for aggression is innate and evolved because it served as a survival function in the past - Fight-or-flight would’ve helped our ancestors by preparing them to engage in self-defensive aggression (or escape) - Identified male sexual jealousy as a common precipitator of aggression and argued evolutionary pressure selected this – men have evolved to aggress against other men who threaten the paternity of offspring borne by their mate o High rates of homicides of men in 20s are consistent with this perspective - Also, aggressive behaviour can be consciously supressed Frustration and Aggression - Frustration – whenever an individuals efforts to obtain a desired goal are interfered with or otherwise blocked - Frustration-aggression hypothesis: the twin propositions that frustration always leads to some form of aggression and frustration is the only cause of aggression - Russell Geen experiment – sort of like milgram but Ps are not ordered to give shocks – 4 experimental conditions inducing frustration o Completing a puzzle with no solution that was thought to be an “intelligence test” o Puzzle that was solvable – but were prevented from finishing by confederate o Finished but was then insulted by confederate – to induce anger o Completed puzzle - Found that both the task and personal frustration conditions produced equal aggression, insult condition with higher levels o Problem? He found that something other than frustration can cause aggression - revised frustration-aggression hypothesis Displaced Aggression. - Soon recognized that even when frustration leads to aggression, people may not direct their aggression toward the actual source – may be unwise/dangerous to do so - Displaced Aggression: harm-doing that is directed at someone or something that was not the actual source of frustration - Often occurs as a response to minor triggering frustration o Triggered displaced aggression may often be more intense than would be expected from the minor trigger o “Straw that broke the camels back” Catharsis. - Not so much positive feedback; - Catharsis: the idea that aggressive behaviour releases people’s pent-up frustration and reduces the likelihood of subsequent aggression - Opposite effect has more often been obtained – when people are provided an opportunity for aggression (or observe it) against a source of frustration, it usually serves to heighten, rather than lessen aggression o Why? Any aggression might make subsequent aggression more appropriate or initial act of aggression leads someone to see themselves as aggressive Excitation Transfer - Begins with an assumption that aversive arousal leads to aggression - Early experiments confirmed physiological arousal increase when people are frustrated/angered – if aversive arousal causes or heightens aggression, then the passage of time, listening to soothing music, or otherwise distracting oneself with pleasant things may reduce aggression by reducing arousal - Many situations other than frustration cause a person to become aroused; exercise, sporting events, exposure to sexually themed material - Study: participants were exposed initially to a procedure that elicited anger or did not, followed by vigorous exercise/quiet activity  only when participants were both angered and spent time on exercise bike did aggression occur - Excitation transfer: idea that physiological arousal from sources other than frustration/anger can be linked to anger related thoughts or cognitions, thereby increasing anger o Can increase aggressive behaviour even when people are no longer consciously aware of aroused state – arousing events may cause people to respond to insults/provocation with greater intensity of aggression even after they have left the event Social Learning Theory - 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 preform a behaviour and whether that behaviour will be rewarded or punished - Personal experiences further shape behaviour - Bobo doll study – control group engaged in very few aggressive activities but were just as likely to engage in aggression that had not been modelled, other children showed more acts of aggression (most with live model) - Theory focuses on how people learn specific patterns of aggressive responding, which will be exhibited when they are frustrated/angry o E.g. in hockey fighting is rewarded compared to other sports, this is why people learn to engage in this behaviour Cognitive Neoassociation Model - Cognitive neoassociation model of aggression: a theory of harm-doing proposing that aversive events activate the schemas for flight-or-fight, which elicit the emotions of anger and fear; whether people respond with aggression or escape depends on the pattern of cues in the situation - Process of spreading activation - According to this model, presence of aggression-related cues (guns, knives, lyrics, movies) will lead to more aggressive behaviour in response to aversive arousal - “Weapon effect” – result of demand characteristics – cues that tell P how to respond – guns make them give longer shocks GAM Again (431-432) INFLUENCES ON AGGRESSION Individual Differences Narcissism. - When criticized, these individuals tend to respond with hostility and aggression – labeled threatened egoism Trait Aggressiveness. - Trait aggressiveness: A disposition that represents how likely people are to respond to provocations with aggression - Aggression questionnaire (AQ): A scale that measures individual differences and treat aggressiveness o Four related dimensions: physical aggression, verbal aggression, anger, and hostility o Scores on the AQ correlated with ratings of participants aggressiveness obtained from acquaintances - Bushmen wondered whether people who score high on the AQ also possess more elaborate schemas related to aggression – idea was based on the cognitive neoassociation model of aggression o Possible combinations of pairs: aggressive-aggressive, aggressive-ambiguous, and ambiguous-ambiguous o Most students judge the aggressive-aggressive word pairs to be very similar and related to each other – students who scored high on AQ tended to rate them as more similar o Students who had high scores on the AQ rated the aggressive-ambiguous word pairs as significantly more similar to one another because their schemas help them see connections Executive Functioning. - Effective social behaviour requires continual planning and monitoring - Executive functioning: higher order cognitive processing that organizes and coordinates lower-level elements of behaviour such as planning and monitoring progress towards goals o Controlled by the frontal lobes - Studies have found poor performance on measures of executive functioning is associated with more aggression in response to provocation – people have difficulty processing multiple pieces of information simultaneously and fail to notice cues in the setting that typically inhibit aggression - Study results show that when partner’s behaviour was provocative, participants with poor executive functioning for more aggressive - When the messages received became increasingly negative, poor executive functioning was
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