Psychology - Agression

  • Created by: jess
  • Created on: 18-02-18 15:29

Neural and Hormonal Influences

  • Believe that behaviour is influenced by physiological causes. Neural explainations focous on areas of the brain and neurotransmitters
  • The Limbic system is a set of structures beneath the cortex that is associated with emotional behaviour. It includes the amygdala, hippocampus and hypothalamus. They help to coordinate behaviour that satisfies motivational and emotional urges, such as aggression.
  • The amygdala is responsible for evaluating and responding to the emotional importance of sensory information. If electrically stimulated in animals, it produces an aggressive response e.g. snarling and these responses are absent if surgically removed.
  • The hippocampus is responsible for the formation of long term memories, such as remembering if an animal previously attacked. If impaired it cannot put things into context, which may cause the amygdala to respond inappropriately e.g. aggressively.
  • Serotonin is a neurotransmitter that has a calming and inhibitory effect on the amygdala. Low levels mean that individuals are less likely to control impulsive behaviour.
  • Hormonal influences are linked to males via testosterone. Men are more aggressive than women and are more likely to be aggressive in young adulthood, when levels are highest.
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Genetic Factors

  • Genetic factors try to explain aggression through a person’s genetic make-up. It aims to detangle the contributions of nature and environment.
  • Twin studies often look at MZ (identical) twins as there should be high degrees of similar aggressive behaviour, due to identical genetics. Coccaro found that 50% of direct aggressive behaviour (towards others) was attributed to genetic factors.
  • Adoption studies have shown a high correlation between aggression and criminal behaviour in adopted children and their biological parents.
  • Miles and Carey meta-analysis on 24 twin and adoption studies suggests a strong genetic basis of aggression that could account for 50% variances. Age differences are also important.
  • No gene has been directly linked to aggression, but the MAOA gene that is responsible for producing the MAOA enzyme has been associated, as it regulates the metabolism of serotonin. Brunner found low levels of MAOA in criminal families.
  • MAOA-H is a variant later discovered by Caspi that is linked to high levels of MAOA and MAOA-L is linked to low levels. Those with MAOA-L are likely to exhibit anti-social behaviour.
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Ethological Explaination

  • The Ethological explanation stresses the adaptive value of animal behaviours. Ethologists, such as Lorenz, study the behaviour patterns of animals in their natural environment.
  • Fixed pattern actions (FAPs) are stereotyped behaviours that are seen within the same species. They occur in specific conditions and are innate.
  • Innate releasing mechanisms (IRM) are neural mechanisms that produce FAPs and are triggered by very specific stimulus known as sign stimulus. They communicate with the motor control circuits to activate the associated FAPs.
  • The Hydraulic model describes how each FAP has a reservoir (store) of action specific energy (ASE) that builds up over time and once used the FAP cannot be repeated until built up again
  • Ritualistic aggression is a form of threat displays that allow animals to demonstrate strength and decide if to escalate to conflict, which in turn makes costly aggression less likely.
  • Some species, such as wolves have evolved to have weapons e.g. teeth, alongside instinctive inhibitions that prevent them from using these against members of their own species. Doves and other non-hunting species do not have weapons, so have not developed these inhibitions
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Evolutionary Explaination

  • Sexual competition explains aggression as it would be used by men to have access to the females to reproduce. The successful/more aggressive males would be able to pass on their genes, leading to more genetic tendencies towards aggression
  • Puts argues that men are built for aggression. They have 75% more muscle then women, as well as thicker jaws, brow ridges and robust skulls; possibly from evolution of successful males
  • Sexual jealousy can also explain aggression using paternal uncertainty. Fertilisation is unknown and there is a risk of cuckoldry (investing on offspring that are not their own).
  • Buss states that jealousy is adaptive and men have evolved to be aggressive through violence and threats towards women or perceived rivals, to help avoid cuckoldry.
  • Aggression in warfare appears to contradict evolutionary explanations, as the risk of death and not being able to pass on genes is high, but it can also help to attract mate.
  • Status is important and bravery is seen as attractive to females. Warriors gain respect from their peers and historically have had more children.
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Frustration-Aggression Hypothesis

  • The frustration-aggression hypothesis states that aggression is a consequence of frustration, which can be defined as ‘any event or stimulus that prevents an individual from attaining some goal and its accompanying reinforcing quality’. Although it does account for threat.
  • The hypothesis predicts a cause and effect relationship between frustration, aggression and catharsis (emotional release). Frustration leads to an arousal of the aggressive drive, aggressive behaviour reduces this arousal and therefore has a cathartic effect.
  • Frustration increases when motivation to achieve a goal is strong and the expected gratification is not received.
  • Individuals are less likely to become aggressive if the action is justified compared to unjustified. This can be seen in Doob and Sears research, where Ps were less frustrated by ‘out of service’ buses driving by them, compared to ones with no sign.
  • Displaced aggression occurs when aggression cannot be displayed towards the object of a person’s frustration. The aggression is then directed to another object or individual; to experience the catharsis a scapegoat has to be found.
  • Berkowitz revised the hypothesis to account for other factors that can lead to aggression, aside frustration. The new theory believes that any unpleasant experiences can produce a negative feeling that can trigger aggression.
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Social Learning Theory

  • SLT believes that all behaviour is learnt through observation and imitation. Bandura’s research with Bobo dolls was the first to show the link between observation and imitation, as children would imitate the physical aggression seen and a third would also copy the verbal aggression that was observed.
  • Children mainly learn via observation, which involves watching role models and then imitating that behaviour. Imitation is more likely to occur if the individual identifies with the model.
  • Vicarious reinforcement describes how individuals are more likely to imitate a behaviour if they see the model being rewarded. If a child witnesses someone being rewarded for aggressive behaviour they will consider it to be appropriate conduct and deem to behaviour appropriate to repeat.
  • A mental representation is a type of script that individuals will learn from observation and refer to when deciding how to behave. If the mental representation shows that reward is more likely than punishment, they will display the learned behaviour and vice versa.
  • Behaviour is produced because of maintenance through direct experience. This means if a child is rewarded for their behaviour they are more likely to repeat it.
  • Behaviour is also produced because of self-efficacy expectancies or confidence. If a child displays a behaviour that was not successful in the past, they will have low self-efficacy in it.
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  • De-individuation is a psychological state in which individuals have lower levels of self-evaluation (e.g. when in a crowd, wearing a uniform or under the influence of alcohol) and decreased concerns about evaluation of others.
  • Festinger described deindividuation as a psychological state that is aroused when individuals join large groups or crowds, due to a ‘cloak of anonymity’ that diminishes responsibility
  • The process of de-individuation can be explained because being able to be identified inhibits uncivilised behaviour. Anonymity reduces these inner constraints and lead to aggressive acts.
  • Being in a crowd can diminish awareness of individuality, as each person becomes ‘faceless’. The larger the group, the increased anonymity. There is less of a fear of negative evaluation and low feelings of guilt
  • Zimbardo split female students into groups. In one they wore lab coats, hoods that hid their faces and were not referred to by name. In the other they wore their own clothes and name tags. The de-individuated group were more likely to administer shocks and for longer.
  • Zimbardo’s research, alongside his original prison experiment with de-individuated guards, shows that people are more willing to act aggressively in a de-individuated state.
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Institutional Agression

  • Situation explanations or the deprivation model focuses on the stressful nature of prisons and the influences of the inmates can explain institutional aggression.
  • Deprivation model argues that the oppressive condition causes violence. Skye states that prisoners are deprived of things like liberty and security and may choose to rebel in violence.
  • Cooke argued that prisoners are only violent in certain circumstances, such as overcrowding, heat, noise and burnout. All of which indicate it is the situation and not their characteristics.
  • Dispositional explanation or the importation model believes that prisons are violent places, as they are filled with violent people and the characteristics are imported in.
  • The importation model by Irwin and Cressey state that prisoners are not blank slates and bring with them (import) characteristics of violence and ‘street code’.
  • Gang membership is consistently related to violence in prisons and those that were gang members beforehand are more frequently and intensely violent than their counterparts.
  • Other dispositional characteristics that relate to violent prison behaviour include anger, anti-social personalities and impulsivity, alongside low self-control.
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Media Influences on Agression

  • Violent films and TV: lab and field experiments findings indicate that those watching the violent film will display more aggressive behaviour and emotions. Bjorkqvist studied Finnish 5-6 year olds that had watched an aggressive film were more aggressive afterwards.
  • Violent films and TV: Longitudinal studies such as Huesmann et al have studied 557 children between 6-10 years and then again 15 years later. Habitual early exposure to violent TV could be used as a predictive tool for adult aggression.
  • Violent films and TV: Meta-analyses: Bushman and Huesmann meta-analysis of 431 studies and 68 000 Ps. 2/3 children and 1/3 adult studies. A variety of media including TV, gaming, music and comics. Modest but significant correlations were made.
  • Violent computer games and research into them is still a relatively new area. Yet, early research indicates that the interactivity of games has the potential to lead to more violence than passive TV. Especially as aggression is often rewarded in gaming.
  • Violent computer games: Experimental studies including Gentile and Stone lab studies have found short term increases in hostile behaviour and feelings in violent game play.
  • Violent computer games: Longitudinal studies like Anderson et al who researched 430 7-9 years were given a survey two times during the school year. Children that played violent video games become more verbally and physically aggressive, as well as less sociable.
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Explanations of Media Influences

  • Frequent viewing of violence removes the anxiety of this anti-social behaviour and makes aggressive behaviour become more acceptable. This is known as Desensitisation.
  • Desensitisation can be seen via a reduction in physiological responses e.g. heart rate. As well as a decline in cognitive and affective reactions e.g. sympathy
  • Disinhibition believes that violent media legitimises the use of violence in real life because it undermines the social sanctions that usually prohibit that type of behaviour.
  • Disinhibition can have short and long term effects. Violent media can increase arousal and the probability of behaving aggressively. Prolonged exposure gives the impression that violent is part of everyday life and reduces guilt and concern, causing future lower inhibition.
  • Berkowitz proposed cognitive priming. Priming is the temporary increase in the accessibility of thoughts and ideas. When people are continually exposed to violent media, it activates (primes) other aggressive thoughts and memory pathways e.g. playing a video game that involves killing primes thoughts of fighting and may lead to fighting behaviour.
  • Frequent activation through prolonged exposure can lead to a lowered activation threshold, allowing them to be accessed more readily, therefore used more to process and interpret information.
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