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Human Aggression. PSY 321 Sanchez. “ In all of nature, there is nothing so threatening to humanity as humanity itself.” Lewis Thomas, 1981. Today’s Agenda:. DEFINITIONS CAUSES AND DETERMINANTS OF AGGRESSION SPECIAL CASE: MEDIA VIOLENCE REDUCING AGGRESSION. Aggression.

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human aggression

Human Aggression

PSY 321


in all of nature there is nothing so threatening to humanity as humanity itself lewis thomas 1981
“In all of nature, there is nothing so threatening to humanity as humanity itself.” Lewis Thomas, 1981
today s agenda
Today’s Agenda:
  • Aggression -- Intentional action aimed at doing harm or causing harm
  • Aggression -- Intentional action aimed at doing harm or causing harm
  • Aggression?
    • Injuring someone accidentally?
    • Swinging a stick at someone but missing?
    • Insulting someone?
    • Deliberately failing to prevent harm?
types of aggression instrumental
Types of Aggression: Instrumental
  • Instrumental aggression
    • Harm inflicted as a means to some goal other than causing pain
    • Goals include:
      • Personal gain
      • Attention
      • Self-defense
types of aggression instrumental aggression


Aggression as means


Types of Aggression: Instrumental Aggression
  • Immediate conditions
    • Opportunity for gain with high reward and low perceived risk
  • Long term conditions
    • Poverty or other challenging economic factors
    • Perceive crime as primary means to resources/respect
    • Norms foster aggression as way to achieve resources
types of aggression emotional
Types of Aggression: Emotional
  • Emotional aggression
    • Harm inflicted for its own sake, to cause pain
    • Often impulsive
    • But can be calm, calculating
types of aggression emotional aggression

Threat to self

Aggression as an end


Types of Aggression: Emotional Aggression
  • Immediate conditions
    • Threat to self-esteem, status, or respect, particularly in public situations
    • Aggression to save face
  • Long term conditions
    • Repeated threats to self-worth or status
emotional aggression a case study katherine newman 2004
Emotional Aggression: A Case Study (Katherine Newman, 2004)
  • School shootings
  • Commonalities:
    • Perpetrators had low social status, respect, and self-esteem
    • Communities were small, tight-knit, and isolated
    • Associated masculinity = violence
    • The small-town social structure prevented people from heeding the warning signs
distinguishing emotional from instrumental aggression
Distinguishing Emotional from Instrumental Aggression
  • Example: Mike Tyson biting Evander Holyfield’s ear
    • Instrumental?
    • Emotional?
    • Maybe both mechanisms are operating in most cases
  • Can think of any purely emotional aggression example?
the united states how aggressive are we
The United States: How aggressive are we?
  • The Violent Nature of American Society


46,121 Americans killed in the Vietnam War

84,644 Americans shot to death in America

  • Homicide-by-gun rate in America

35 times higher than Germany, Denmark, or England, 7 times higher than Canada or France

gender differences
Gender Differences
  • Universal finding that men are more violent than women.
    • Differences stable over time and place.
  • However….type of aggression matters
gender aggression
Gender & Aggression
  • Intent to Harm
    • What ways can we inflict harm on others other than physical violence?
  • Direct aggression: Verbal or physical aggression
  • Indirect aggression: Inflicting harm in covert (nonphysical) ways
    • Relational aggression
why are people so aggressive



Why Are People So Aggressive?
  • Instinct theories
    • Freud
      • Psychoanalytic theory
      • Death instinct vs. life instinct
      • Aggression – death instinct is turned outward at others
  • Evolutionary theories
    • Darwin
      • Genetic survival
      • Genetic selection for aggression
social learning theory bandura
Social Learning Theory(Bandura)
  • “Modeling”
  • Learn how to behave prosocially
  • Learn how to behave aggressively
social learning theory bandura19
Social Learning Theory(Bandura)
  • “Bobo” doll study
    • ½ kids watched adult beat up doll
    • ½ kids not exposed to the behavior
  • Kids allowed to play with doll
  • Results??
why are people so aggressive21
Why Are People So Aggressive?
  • Evolutionary theories
  • Social learning theory

a better question may be …

  • When do people aggress?
    • Under what conditions are people likely to aggress?
    • What situational factors cause people to aggress?
when are people aggressive
When Are People Aggressive?
  • Situational Factors
    • Frustration-Aggression theory -- frustration always leads to aggression
  • Study
    • Young children in room with toys
    • ½ can’t play with toys, then allowed to play
    • ½ can play with toys
    • Results: frustrated kids destroyed the toys
when are people aggressive23
When Are People Aggressive?
  • Situational Factors
    • Frustration-aggression theory
      • Closeness of goal as a factor of frustration-aggression link
  • Study
    • Confederate cut in line in front of people
    • ½ time cut in front of 2nd person in line
    • ½ time cut in front of 12th person in line
    • Results: people standing behind intruder more aggressive when confederate cut 2nd person in line (closer to their goal)
when are people aggressive24
When Are People Aggressive?
  • Situational Factors
    • Frustration-Aggression theory
      • Aggression increases when frustration is unexpected
  • Study
    • Students hired to call strangers for donations
    • Students worked on a commission
    • ½ students expected a high rate of contributions
    • ½ students expected far less success
    • Experiment rigged so donors did not donate
    • Results: callers with high expectations were more verbally aggressive toward the non-donors
when are people aggressive25
When Are People Aggressive?
  • Situational Factors
    • Displaced aggression
      • Aggression not directed at source of the frustration, but at a different, lower status target
      • Remember Dollard et al. (1939): as cotton prices went down (i.e., less income), lynchings increased
when are people aggressive26
When Are People Aggressive?

Berkowitz’s modification of frustration-aggression theory

  • frustration leads to anger
  • anger with an aggressive cue leads to aggression
  • aggressive cue: object associated with aggressive responses (e.g., a gun)
when are people aggressive27
When Are People Aggressive?

Berkowitz’s modification of frustration-aggression

  • Induced Ps to feel angry
  • Left in a room with gun (violent) or racket (neutral)
  • Ps allowed to administer “shocks” to other P
  • Ps gave more shocks to other when gun present
when are people aggressive28
When Are People Aggressive?
  • Alcohol myopia (Steele & Josephs, 1990)
    • Intoxication facilitates aggression by impairing cognitive processing, narrows attention
    • Results is more extreme, less moderated behavior
    • Aggressive response: often powerful and simple
    • Inhibiting response: often weaker and more complex
  • More violent crimes (rape, murder, riots, assaults)
    • In summer months
    • In hot years
    • In hot cities
  • Heat increases
    • Hit by pitch incidents
    • Horn-honking
    • Interpret ambiguous event in hostile terms
summary people are more aggressive when they are
Summary: People are more aggressive when they are…
  • Frustrated
  • Angry
  • Exposed to aggressive cues
  • Drunk
  • Hot
special case media violence
Special Case: Media Violence
  • Does violence in the media make people more aggressive?
    • Statistics
      • TV is on 28 hrs/wk for preteens and 23 hrs/wk for teens
      • Prime shows average 5 or 6 acts of violence per hour
      • Sat morning kids’ programs average 20-25 per hour
      • Most violent TV appears before school and after school
special case media violence32
Special Case: Media Violence
  • Does violence in the media make people more aggressive?
  • Conflicting opinions:
    • Catharsis Hypothesis
      • Watching violence purges aggressive tendencies
    • vs. Social learning
      • Watching violence increases aggressive tendencies
    • Correlational and Experimental Evidence
special case media violence33
Special Case: Media Violence
  • Procedure (Liebert & Baron, 1972)
    • ½ children exposed to an extremely violent show
    • ½ children exposed to nonviolent sporting event
    • Each child allowed to play in another room with a group of children
    • Observed aggression/violence in children’s playing
effects of other violent media
Effects of Other Violent Media
  • Video Games
    • 8 to 13-year-old boys in U.S. average 7.5 hours of video games per week
    • 15% of male entering college students play at least 6 hours/week
“It’s awesome,” says James Parker, 27, a Washington computer network administrator.

“You can carjack any car, go to the seedy part of town, beep the horn and pick up a prostitute. Then you take her to a dark street and the car starts shaking. When the prostitute jumps out, your money is down but your energy is full”

Note: People can recover their money by killing the woman.

Source: The Washington Post 8/24/02, p. A1

what does the research say
What does the research say?
  • Anderson & Dill, 2000 Study 1
    • examined correlation between amount of time playing violent video games and aggressive delinquent behavior
    • r = .46!! (quite high)
anderson dill study 2 experiment
Anderson & Dill Study 2: Experiment
  • College students randomly assigned to play a video game 3 times over a week
    • Wolfenstein 3D: violent game
    • Myst: nonviolent game
    • DV: Level/duration of noise blast given to opponent after losing a game in the lab
recent meta analysis anderson bushman 2001

Dr. Bushman

Recent Meta-Analysis (Anderson & Bushman, 2001)
  • Reviewed 54 studies with 4,200 participants
  • Playing violent video games resulted in
    • Increased aggression
    • Decreased helping
    • Increased aggressive thoughts
    • Increased anger
    • Increased arousal
  • Same effects for males and females, children and adults
how does violent media cause aggression
How does violent media cause aggression?
  • Short-term effects
    • Primes aggressive cognitions
    • Increases arousal
    • Increases anger
  • Long-term effects
    • Teaches people how to aggress
    • People develop aggressive schemas
    • They become desensitized to violence
how can aggression be reduced
How Can Aggression Be Reduced?
  • Catharsis: Doesn’t work
  • Punishment: Not a simple solution
    • Deterrence Theory: Punishment has to be severe, certain, and swift
    • Corporal punishment increases aggression (Eron et al., 1991; Straus et al., 1997; Gershoff, 2002)
  • Remove Cues to Aggression (Berkowitz)
  • Provide Better Role Models (Bandura)