Aggression This essay will evaluate biological and psychological theories of aggression and associated methods of its reduction and control. It will assess the influence of the media on pro and anti-social behaviour identifying individual, social and cultural diversity in aggressive and pro social behaviours. It will include a discussion of the origins and courses of aggression and the implication of these theories for the reduction and control of aggressive behaviour.
It will also include an assessment of medial influences on pro and anti-social behaviour and a discussion of individual, social and cultural diversity in pro and anti-social behaviour. There are different types of aggression – physical, being scratching, hitting, attacking someone with a weapon and so on, and psychological, being verbal threats, insults, threatening facial expressions and so on. There is hostile aggression where the primary intention is to inflict harm on others and instrumental aggression were the primary intention is not to harm others but to attain some other goal or purpose.
The distinction between these two types of aggression is not always clear as they may be a range of other biological, social and environmental factors motivating the aggressive behaviour. There are also different theories of aggression which include biological, physiological, instinct, learning and environmental theories. A biological theory of aggression suggests that it is caused due to high levels of testosterone and Floody (1983) found that hormonal changes in women can produce aggressive behaviour.
Physiological theories suggests that there are genetic causes of aggression and research says that the possession of an extra ‘Y’ chromosome can make men more aggressive. Instinct theories suggest that aggression is important in the evolutionary development, allowing individuals to adapt to their environment and survive in it. They suggest ‘aggressiveness is clearly important in competing successfully for limited resources, in defending territory and for basic survival’ (Gross,R,2001,p420). They also suggest aggressive instincts generate a drive or energy which needs to be released.
The biological approach would try to reduce aggression through the use of surgery, chemicals or drugs. Surgery on the amygdale has reduced aggression in violent people however, this would be classed as an extreme measure. Chemical castrations are used, they would administer female hormones into males through implants, injection or orally. Drugs are also used to reduce aggression, however they often produce side effects which include memory loss and the inability to concentrate. Therefore, the use of these invasive techniques and the adverse side effects of the drugs, renders these treatments for aggression ethnically problematic.
The biological approach also ignores important psychological, social and environmental factors which influence aggression. Some of these being the media, aggressive children’s toys for example hammers and guns and parenting. Another theory of aggression is Social Learning Theory which came from Albert Bandura (1962). He felt that aggression could not be explained using traditional learning theories whereby only direct reinforcement would explain new behaviours. His social learning theory suggests that we also learn through observing others. He suggests that biology creates the potential for aggression and observation is how it is then learnt.
Bandura claims that children learn their aggressive responses primarily through the observation of role models with whom they identify, for example a peer, a parent. They would also learn about the consequences of aggressive behaviour by watching others succeed which is called vicarious reinforcement. By observing the consequences of aggressive behaviour for those who use it, children would gradually learn about what is considered appropriate. He suggests that in order for the social learning to take place, the child must for mental representations of events in their social environment.
If the child produces aggressive behaviour as a result of vicarious reinforcement, that behaviour could be maintained by direct reinforcement. This is, if the child is rewarded for their aggressive behaviour, they are more likely to repeat it in similar situations. This will influence the value of aggression and aggression will increase in value because it will become associated with rewards. Bandura’s social learning theory provides a powerful framework for understanding aggression and it can be used to explain cultural variations in levels of aggression.
However, it ignores the influence of biological and emotional factors of aggressive behaviour. The media can play a big role on pro and anti-social behaviour. Bandura conducted an experiment to see if the media could play a role on anti-social behaviour and this experiment is known as the Bobo Doll experiment. He had three groups of nursery school children and they were to watch a short film. Each child in the groups watched an adult attacking a plastic doll. In one film, the children in a group see the adult rewarded. In the second film the adult is punished and in the third film there was no reward or punishment.
After watching the film, the children were given an opportunity to play with the plastic doll. The children who had seen the adult rewarded and those who hadn’t seen any consequences were found to be more aggressive to the doll. The group who had seen the adult punished were found to be less aggressive to the doll. The basic finding from this experiment ‘was that young children can acquire new aggressive responses not previously in their behavioural repertoire, merely through exposure to a filmed or televised model’ (Gross,R,2001,p425).
It was reasoned that if children could learn new ways of harming others through such experience, then harming mass-media portrayals of violence might be contributing, in some degree, to increased levels of violence in society (Baron 1977). Huesmann and Moise (1996) suggest five ways in which exposure to media violence might lead to aggression. Observational Learning, Cognitive Priming, Desensitization, Lowered Physiological Arousal and Justification.
Within the observational learning they suggest that children observe the actions of media models and may imitate these behaviours. The more real that children perceive violent scenes to be, the more likely they will be to try out the behaviour they have learnt. Within the cognitive priming they suggest that it refers to the activation of existing aggressive thoughts and feelings. It claims that immediately after viewing a violent programme, the viewer is primed to respond aggressively because a network of memories involving aggression is retrieved and activated.
Also, frequent exposure to scenes of violence may lead children to store scripts for aggressive behaviour in their memories, and then recalled in later situations if any aspects of the original situation is present. Within desensitization , Huesman and Moise suggest that under normal conditions, anxiety about violence inhibits its use. The more violence that a child views on television, the more acceptable that aggressive behaviour becomes and this may also cause children to become less anxious about violence, and so are no longer inhibited about using it.
Lowered physiological arousal is related to desensitization. Boys who are heavier viewers of violence of television show lower than average physiological arousal in response to new scenes of violence. The arousal from viewing violence is unpleasant at first, but children who watch it constantly get used to it, and their responses decline. As such, they then become less inhibited about using it. Within justification, they claim children who have behaved aggressively may watch violent television programmes in order to relieve their guilt and justify their own aggression.
When violence is justified or goes unpunished on television, the viewers concern about consequences are also reduced, and the child feels less inhibited about behaving aggressively again. Justification may also produce attitude change in the child and suggest that problems can be solved through aggressive behaviour. Media can also have an effect on pro-social behaviour. Within the Social Learning Theory it is said that the depiction of pro-social acts, such as helping, are more likely to be in line with social norms.
This means that the imitation of pro-social acts by children are more likely to be directly reinforced by rewards, and thus repeated on further occasions. Bryan and Walbeck (1970) carried out a controlled experiment with six to nine year old children relating to media effects on pro-social behaviour. The children watched a video showing a character playing with a bowling game and winning gift certificates. In a different version of the film, the bowler could either give some of his certificates to a charity or keep them all for himself. In addition, he would sometimes preach about the merits of giving to charities.
After watching the film, the children were placed in a similar situation and were observed to see how much of their winnings they would give to charity. The results from this experiment were that the children who saw the video in which the character gave to charity were more likely to make donations themselves, than those who saw the character behave selfishly. The results also showed that the bowlers actions spoke louder than words, since preaching about charity made little difference to how the children behaved. Another experiment carried out relating to the media effect on pro-social ehaviour was done by Rubenstein et al. (1976). He used children aged five to six and he divided them into three groups, with each group watching a different unedited television programme. One was an episode of Lassie in which a small boy risked his life to save an endangered puppy. Another was an episode of Lassie that featured dogs in a positive light but portrayed no example of a human helping a dog. And the last was an episode of the Brady Bunch, a typical family sitcom. After viewing, the children were put into an engineered situation.
Here they were faced with a choice between persisting with a button pressing game or breaking off from the game to another button that would bring assistance to puppies in distress, but also reduce the amount of points they could win. The children who saw the dramatic example of the boy helping the puppy chose to help puppies in distress in the engineered situation more quickly and for a considerably longer period of time than the children in either of the other two conditions. This study implies that it is possible to produce television programmes featuring action and adventure and at some time have socially desirable influences on children.
Social diversity in anti-social behaviour can be explained through many theories, two of which being deindividuation and social learning theory. Deindividuation stems from Le Bon (1895). He considered aggression to be a natural consequence of crowd behaviour. The more anonymous the crowds, the more likely aggression will occur. According to Festinger (1952), membership of a group provides us with two things, a sense of social identity and belongingness, and a means by which we can merge ourselves into the group, forgetting our own individuality and becoming anonymous.
Zimbardo gathered experimental evidence of deindividuation by testing female participants to deliver electric shocks to confederates under two conditions, hooded and non hooded. From this he found that the participants that were hooded gave twice as many shocks than those non hooded, ‘which suggests that people do act more anti-socially when deindividuated’ (Woods,B,1997,p193). Evidence suggests that deindividuation has an effect on aggression and when people are in crowds they loose their sense of inhibition. However, deindividuation does not always lead to aggression for example people at religious or music festivals.
Individual diversity in anti-social behaviour can be explained by biological explanations. Increased levels of testosterone in males have been linked with increased levels of aggression. Progesterone, a female reproductive hormone, is also linked to higher levels of aggression. ‘Women injected with extra progesterone when they were pregnant, had children who were rated more aggressive as adolescents’ (woods,B,1997,p236). The possession of an “aggressive gene” in humans has been tested, however, evidence so far is weak and contradictory, so no conclusion can be drawn on this.
Cross-culture evidence shows similar patterns of aggressive behaviour in many cultures and this suggests that it is largely determined by biological forces, nature. There are variations between cultures and this suggests that the environment and experience have a key role in aggressive behaviour. Sub-cultures within a society may differ in their attitudes to violence, for example terrorists or criminal groups use violence to achieve their aims. ‘Ebbeson et al (1975) compared the hostility of countries and types of games played.
They found that the more war like the culture, the more aggressive the games’ (Woods,B,1997,p241). When talking about individual diversity on pro-social behaviour, Batson (1991) is the strongest psychologist to suggest that people help others purely out of the goodness of their hearts. He suggests that witnessing a distressing event results in two types of response, personal distress and empathy. He also suggests that when we experience empathy for a person in need, we are able to experience events and emotions the way that person experiences them. Cultural diversity on pro-social behaviour can be explained in many ways.
Research into this has found that cultures in which children show the most pro-social behaviour, are those in which women contribute the most to the family economy, and frequently assign tasks to their children. Eisenberg and Mussen (1989) reviewed many studies on cross-cultural differences in pro-social behaviour and they came to the conclusion that children living in Mexican villages and Israeli kibbutzim are more ‘considerate, kind and co-operative than their typical middle class American counterparts’ (Eysenck,M, 2004, p571). Bibliography Benson,N. (2007). Introducing Psychology. Thriplow. Icon Books Ltd. Eysenck,M. 2004). Psychology An International Perspective. Hove. Psychology Press Limited. GROSS,R. (2001). Psychology The Science of Mind and Behaviour. Tonbridge. Greengate Publishing Services. Woods,B. (1997). Discovering Psychology. Tonbridge. Greengate Publishing Services. References 1)Barbara Woods, Greengate Publishing Services, Tonbridge, Kent. 1997. Discovering Psychology. 2)Michael W. Eysenck, Psychology Press Limited, Hove, East Sussex. 2004. Psychology An International Perspective. 3)Richard Gross, Greengate Publishing Services, Tonbridge, Kent. 2001 4th Edition. Psychology The Science of Mind and Behaviour.