Mercurial Essays

Free Essays & Assignment Examples

Aggression (3619 words)

AggressionAggression is a critical part of animal existence, which is an inherent driving
force to humans, as we, too, are animals. The source of aggression within
humans is a long summative list, but before trying to understand its source one
must apply a working definition of aggression. Aggressive behavior is defined
by Encyclopedia Britannica as any action of an animal that serves to injure an
opponent or prey animal or to cause an opponent to retreat. (7) David G.

Myers states that aggression is any physical or verbal behavior intended to
hurt or destroy.(9) There are many types of aggressive behaviors, which can
be differentiated from the factual act to the hidden motives. For example, an
aggressive behavior can be negative or positive, accidental or intended, and
physical or mental. Aggression can take numerous forms, the act of hitting a
wall to release aggression has some of the same roots as playing football and
enjoying hitting the quarterback. A child yelling at his parents could be
equated, in its aggressiveness, with hitting one’s horn when one is cut off on
495. Aggression is also a relative construct. What might seem like a terribly
aggressive act to one person, most often the victim, might seem like an
induced response to the perpetrator.(3) Psychologist Arlene Stillwell
performed an experiment where she assigned ordinary college students at
random to play the role of a victim or a perpetrator in a small incident. Then
she asked the students to describe the situation that had just transpired. What
she found was that both victims and perpetrators deformed the truth equally
to present their sides in a better light. Victims would dwell on their lasting
traumas from the incident while the perpetrator might make the act seem like
a one-time action provoked by insurmountable circumstances. The resulting
implication is that aggression is in the eye of the beholder.(3) Due to its
relative nature aggression is extremely hard to isolate and study. Some acts
are very easy to categorize as aggressive, a first degree murder or first degree
rape, but is negligent manslaughter aggressive? The mere act of not shoveling
one’s sidewalk might have the same effect as a cold-blooded murder but is it
an aggressive act? For the purposes of this paper aggression will be related
to the four conditions presented by Gerda Siann. They are as follows; 1. The
person carrying out that behavior, the aggressor, does so with intention. 2.

We Will Write a Custom Essay Specifically
For You For Only $13.90/page!

order now

The behavior is taking place within an interpersonal situation which is
characterized by an accumulated distress or a opposition. 3. The aggressor
intends by the behavior in question to gain a greater advantage than the
person on the other side of the aggression. 4. The aggressor carrying out the
behavior has either provoked the situation or moved the conflict unto a higher
degree of strength.(11) Aggression has numerous reasons and consequences
both must be analyzed in order to see from whence it arises. An explicit
example of the strength of both nature and nurture concerning aggression is
the life of Kody Scott, a young gang member of California. He was already a
gang member in middle school, and would not have been had the gang not
already been in place when he graduated from elementary school – thus
environment’s role in aggressive behavior, but one fateful day when he stole a
car to get to the hospital for the birth of his first child, he intentionally
detoured through the neighborhood of a rival gang and killed a rival gang
member. The detour he deliberately took was a conscious decision and not
provoked by the environment – hence nature’s toll on his aggressive act.(3)
Aggression is usually associated with negative aspects of the world.(3) This is
not necessarily true, though. Negativity is but half of the nature of aggression.

Aggression can have very positive results. For example, a non-aggressive
hockey player gets thrown around and will therefore not perform very well in
an bellicose sport. On the other hand an aggressive player will not allow
himself to be thrown around like the aforementioned player and will most
likely win the small battles just based on the mentality of the player.(5)
Another example of positive aspects of aggression might be a person’s sexual
aggressiveness might allow them to obtain a date to prom without any
problem, whereas anyone much less aggressive person would be passive and
wait for the person to approach them. One good aspects of aggressiveness
might be ambitiousness or assertiveness, an aggressive person is more likely
to get what they need done as opposed to the inactive person. Outgoing, a
socially positive trait is nothing more than aggressiveness personified. A
female high school senior might be more successful and be rewarded (by
being voted for Best Personality in the MOCK awards) for being socially
aggressive – outgoing. Aggression can also be characterized by mentality.

Where one hurts someone out of rage or whether one thinks of numerous
ways of hurting someone, aggression still is present in both situations. The
thoughts of a people, for example the Germans in World War Two can be
just as aggressive as the act as the systematic murder of the Jewish
community.(8) Aggression in this case was an extreme example of a spiraling
staircase. The Nazi party did not begin a process of systematic murder at the
beginning of their rule, first they instituted a hate as scapegoats toward the
Jews, they then removed some luxuries that the Jews had, then they removed
citizenship, followed by imprisonment, then to slave labor, and lastly the
Final Solution was implemented. The thoughts of hatred at the beginning of
the platform was just as dangerous and aggressive as the gas chambers of
late WWII. These aggressive feelings allowed the Germans to desensitize
each other to a point of genocide.(11) By solely disliking someone they
looked the other way when the book burning began, then it was just a small
step to the first pogrom, then they just accepted the de-humanization of Jews,
and this was followed by an escalating progress which led eventually to the
inhumane murder of close to six million human lives. Along with these pure
feelings of anger and hatred -aggression-the Germans also tried to
scapegoat and thereby provide catharsis for themselves by blaming the
downfall of their troubles on the Jewish community. This displacement
somehow released pent up rage that had been present for numerous years of
misery for the Germans.(3, Handler) Thus thoughts also cause aggression or
are manifestations of the pure aggression. The most obvious example of
aggression is killing, for that reason the example for this paper will be the
untimely death of people as caused by others. From very young ages death
permeates into all of our lives. From having a loved grandparents passing
away to the learning how to read the newspaper and reading about terrible
deaths daily, if not more often. One strong argument supports that people
have built-in aggression. Much like the theories of Freud, that people have
instinctual aggression, whether sexual or violent, a multitude of scientists and
psychologists believe that biology is crucial in the development of
aggression.(9) For example aggression has been correlated numerous times in
a significant way with testosterone.(1) One psychologist, Jack Hokanson, has
tracked catharsis theories for a number of years. One experiment performed
by this man seemed to point that in order to reduce violence or aggression
men would react angrily, whereas women would react in a friendly manner
when presented with aggressive behaviors.(2) The variable that was tested
here were the differences in the genders which proved to be quite polar, for
the men were belligerent and the women were almost uniformly kind.(12)
Differences in physical strength also have provided for differences in
aggression levels between the two sexes. Since men are physically built
stronger than women they are more likely to become aggressive than are
women who are not, in general, as physically strong. Neurotransmitters seem
to play a very important part in the aggressive nature of mammals. As tested
in monkeys, who have matching 99 percent of their genes with humans, it has
been found that hyper-aggressive or antisocial monkeys have a deficit of the
neurotransmitter serotonin. As an interesting side note the leaders, who have
a different type of aggression -assertion-have higher levels of this same
chemical.(1) In this same study the monkeys seemed to have very predictable
heredity patterns, In which the monkeys were found to easily exhibit the same
behavior as the father. This was also found to be true in men who have been
discharged from the Marines for excessive violence, as well as in criminals in
Finland who committed acts of wanton violence.(8) Seratonin has also found
to be an inhibiting factor concerning aggression. A situation or condition that
reduces seratonin levels is among drugs, hypoglycemia. Hypoglycemia is a
condition of lowered blood sugar, certain diets can cause or inhibit the onset
of this condition, thus directly affecting genetically the aggressive behavior of
a person.(12) On the topic of diets an correlation has been found with the
corn (a food that decreases the levels of seratonin in the brain) intake of a
country and the homicide rates, an obviously aggressive marker.(10) Another
chemical in the human machine that causes or has been related to has been
the anger hormone -adrenaline and its counterpart noradrenaline. This is
inherent in the flight or fight reflex, in which fighting is usually prepared by a
flush of adrenaline into the system, and anger/aggression are integral parts of
it.(12) Stanley Hall found that anger has numerous different effects on the
human body, depending on the person. Aggression can cause either an
increase or a decrease in heart rate depending on the anger causing
stimulus.(12) For example, a psychologist named Albert F. Ax found that his
test subjects were experiencing the slowing of their hearts because they were
concentrating too hard on the event supposed to turn them aggressive, in the
case of his experiment a mugger.(12) Another study done by a man named
Eron in 1987, showed that most children, who when described by their peers
as having high levels of aggression, are three times as likely to have a criminal
conviction by the age of 30 than those children who were rated as having high
levels of pro-social behavior.(10) That study shows the apparent stability, or
lack of change, in the behavior of people thereby fueling the genetic, or
nature, side of the nature versus nurture war that is currently being fought.

Epilepsy has also been affiliated with aggressive behavior or at least with
outbursts of it. A very strong correlation has been made between the focus of
epileptic discharges being in the temporal lobe of the brain and discharges of
violent and aggressive behavior. (1) That condition can be helped by
psychosurgery but is not used as common as possible because the biological
age group who most is affected by this circumstance are juveniles or violent
offenders who are not capable of giving unbiased, informed consent to
irreversible procedures. Furthermore, evidence liking antisocial
conduct-aggression-with abnormal electrical activity in the temporal lobes.

Using a electroencephalogram (EEG) to study these waves of electricity in
the temporal lobe of sufferers of a sociopath complex, psychologists have
surmised that the aggressive personality disorders are related to a delay of
maturation in these areas of the brain, this could be cause by a innumerable
amount of factors like fetal infection, brain trauma, or lack of proper nutrients
in diet.(1) In 1969 a psychologist by the name of Williams used an EEG on
333 men convicted of crimes and found that out of the 206 men who had a
history of crimes has a disruption, or dysrhythmias, in the temporal lobes.

Following the genetic track of aggression is the undeniable fact that
aggressive behavior also declines sharply with age.(10) Another physiological
factor that might affect the aggressiveness and even violence level of a person
is that of cerebral trauma, especially diseases. These people who exhibit an
impairment of the control systems of the brain also have been known to
occasionally suffer from persistent brain immaturity, brain damage, or toxic
impairment of the brain. There has also been presented the single-gene notion
about psychopath or sociopath behavior. Researchers have found that
significant number of prisoners have an extra sex chromosomes, for example
an XXY or XYY.(12) Their being in jail does not seem to be the root of
their problem but rather it seems to stem from their low level of intelligence,
which is inherently a genetically influence aspect, according to Robert A.

Baron.(10) In post-war studies, studies of the most aggressive of all activities,
there have been similarities found with soldier. For example several senior
U.S. Air Force officers have stated that when the Air Force tried to
pre-select fighter pilots after world war two the only common denominator
between their WWII aces was that they had all been involved in numerous
altercations as children. Not as bullies but rather as fighters, the type of
person who would not back down once attacked or hurt. This seemed like a
strange connection between the type of job and a similarity in childhood
activities, because significantly less than a third of school populations engage
in fights on a regular basis. This seems to point at a genetic capacity for
violence and aggression. More informally, Gwynne Dyer has felt, through his
experiences as a soldier, his genes at work as he says; Aggression is certainly
part of our genetic makeup, and necessarily so, but the normal human being’s
quota of aggression will not cause him to kill acquaintances, let alone wage
war against strangers from a different country?.The overwhelming majority
of those who have killed?have done so as soldiers in war, and we recognize
that that has practically nothing to do with the kind of personal aggression that
would endanger us as their fellow citizens. (8) Here a regular serving soldier
spoke with experience of seeing the numerous soldiers that [derived] their
greatest satisfaction from male companionship, from excitement, and from the
conquering of physical obstacles. Those men were most likely part of the 2
percent of combat soldiers (as noted by Swank and Marchand’s WWII
study) are predisposed to be aggressive psychopaths.(8) Men can be
compared to animals concerning this apparent predisposition to aggression.

For example, in most species it is the best hunter, the best fighter, the most
aggressive male who ends up passing on his genetic data unto a female and
thereby an offspring. An offshoot of this aggressive psychopath, is another
genetic predisposition, the presence or apathy of empathy for others. Life
magazine printed in their latest magazine that, the heritability of most
personality traits is about 50 percent.(4) Thus showing the strong
predisposition to certain behaviors, namely aggression. Furthermore,
aggression?[is a trait] with high heritability.(4) As a result of this there has
been recent debate in some states, like Minnesota, who have been trying to
obtain a sort of genetic cleansing by not allowing the riff-raff of society to
breed. This ethical question shoots back to days of 19th century
anthropologist Francis Galton who also recommended breeding quotas to
weed out the unfit.(4) It also sounds much like the callings of another
well-known historical figure from the 1940’s, the leader of the Third Reich,
Adolph Hitler.(Handler) Nurturing also presents a strong argument for the
development of violence and or aggression. Going back to the situation with
Kody Scott, how could he have killed his rival gang member had he not been
there, the environment and the years of spending in a violent gang helped him
make the choice to cold-bloodedly execute the young man.(3) One of the
most heated debates going on today is the conditioning value of movies and
the rest of the media. Do movies really affect us in aggressive ways? The
United States Navy seems to think so, for one of their psychiatrists
developed a formula to psychologically enable certain soldiers to become
assassins and this process consists of using violent movies. They do perform
this process in order to desensitize the government paid assassin to murders,
executions, and unfeeling deaths. There appear to be three major types of
conditioning occurring with the media concerning violence. First, there is a
classical conditioning when people sit at home and see detailed, horrible
suffering of people and they are associating this killing and suffering with their
enjoyment, with a big container of pop-corn, with their favorite soft-drink,
and with their friends and company, all things that the person sees as positive.

B.F. Skinner’s operant conditioning comes into play through interactive video
games where there is a reward for killing or destroying numerous things with
no concern for their well-being. Lastly, social learning as described by
Bandura seems to take in mind the numerous role models who people see
nowadays in the movies.(8) For example, in the movie Pulp Fiction, the hero
Butch (Bruce Willis) ends up killing two people and he is glorified at the end
of the movie. He makes up with the person who was chasing him, makes a
large amount of money, survives the two homosexual rapists, and goes off to
a paradise with his girlfriend. There is not much more of a perfect example of
someone who could potentially be seen as a good guy who actually smokes,
cheats, kills, lies, and steals. Children also develop attachments to the type of
behavior exhibited by Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles or Robert Deniro from
either Goodfellas or Heat.(9) Both of these turn into obvious role models for
children and adolescents. Media such as cartoons presents the evil villain as
someone who always has a sadistic desire for destruction of ransom
impersonal someone. More often than not, thought, they are not like you.

For example, in the movie Die Hard III Bruce Wilis is the protagonist and
Jeremy Irons is the antagonist. Bruce Wilis, being the good guy, is an
all-American type of guy, who speaks almost perfect New York English. On
the other hand the villain, Jeremy Irons has an accent which sounds as if it
were from Germanic Europe (Germany is a very good stereotypical evil
because of its activities in the early 20th century). This promotes aggression
between people of differing descents because the media presents a view that
blatantly states foreign people are enemies.(3) Movies also tend to give the
feeling that the victim will be dehumanized, much like how in Vietnam soldiers
referred to the enemy as VC or Charlie, thus removing any individualistic
characteristics from the enemy, it turned to be just one single, foreign
foe.(3,8) This social phenomenon especially holds true since most criminals
and aggressors generally have a below-average intelligence, thus are more
mentally malleable. Leonard Berkowitz found that; There is a remarkable
consistency to these findings. The studies reviewed here agree in noting that
punitive parental disciplinary methods (such as physical punishment and
depriving children of privileges) ten to be associated with a high level of
aggression and other forms of antisocial behavior by the children.

Love-oriented disciplinary methods on the other hand, evidently facilitate the
development of conscience and internalized restraints against socially
disapproved behavior.(12) This is very important in the development of
children for most sexual offenders, whether rapists or child abusers, were
often time abused themselves as a child or adolescent. Punishment inherently
increases resentment and hostility, thus creating an environment where the
child does not care for the parents and all of the associations that can be
made with the parent, like their morals, rules, and respects. Isolation also
tends to have a very strong effect on the mentality of aggression. Usually with
a lack of interpersonal relationships people cannot fully appreciate the human
existence and most often do not learn how to handle destructive urges
because they do not care about society, which innately is an interpersonal
relationship.(6) The aforementioned monkeys with the lower seratonin levels
also, when normal, became hyper-aggressive social misfits when reared by a
mechanized surrogate mother, who did not give the monkeys affection. This
brings up Freud’s theory of repressed memories, in which the person puts
traumatic experiences from their past into their subconscious.(1) Freud
believed that these repressed memories will surface in the form of disorders
and problems, mostly exhibited through either sexual dysfunction or
violence.(9) Therefore our early surroundings affect us for most of our lives,
at least according to Sigmund Freud. Environment and exposure compounds
any genetic factors, for instance, the inner parts of Washington D.C. have
considerably higher aggressive crime rates (murder, rape, aggravated assault)
than a Maryland suburb like the Derwood/Olney/Flower Hill area does.

Reasons for such rates are that the city houses more people closer to the
poverty line.(3) These people have constant stresses that people do not need
to deal with in the suburbs. Drugs and alcohol are also a considerably
stronger force in the city. Those two intoxicants allow people to perform acts
that they would regularly not have the mind to do. For example, alcohol is
consumed, a person looses their inhibitory brain functions and are more likely
to forget the consequences of an aggravated assault or a murder.(3,9) For
that reason it is likely that there was a rash of psychopathic killers in the
Russo-Asiatic area in the past decades. In cities, because of the higher level
drug business there is a greater need for guns and weapons. Due to the higher
level of guns intrinsically there will be more murder and violence. The
environment thus fuels the violent nature of the city-dwellers. Immediate
environment also tends to influence aggression. For example, a person could
be inadvertently aggressive toward another in the following way; One person
sits down at the only open stool in a bar, he orders a bowl of pretzels and a
cold beer. The bartender brings him his beer, and he begins to read his
newspaper. Suddenly the person next to him eats a pretzel, without saying a
word. At this the person is shocked, and thinks, how can this cruel person
be eating my pretzels? Out of fear for starting an argument he says nothing
but eats one of the pretzels and both men take turns eating pretzels from the
bowl until they are gone. The other man then puts money for his beer down
and walks away. The first man then thinks, Wow! I am glad that evil person
is gone, who would steal a complete strangers pretzels, Honestly? The
bartender then arrives and says, here is your pretzel bowl enjoy.(3, Adams’
Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy) The victim immediately turned into the
aggressor by taking the other man’s pretzels. Thus inadvertently being
extremely aggressive towards another human. Immediate distance also
generally affects the aggressiveness level of a person, especially when killing
is involved. The tendency is as follows; the further away one is from the
intended victim the least resistance there will be towards committing the act of
aggression. The bomber pilots who firebombed the city of Dresden,


I'm Belinda!

Would you like to get a custom essay? How about receiving a customized one?

Check it out