Aggression is a behavioral characteristic that refers to forceful actions or procedures (such a deliberate attack) with intentions to dominate or master. It tends to be hostile, injurious, or destructive, and is often motivated by frustration (The Merriam-Webster Dictionary, 1995). For an individual, aggressive behavior is considered understandable and normal under appropriate circumstances, but when it is frequent, intense, lasting, and pervasive, it is more likely to be a symptom of a mental disorder. Likewise, aggression between groups, can be in the form of healthy competition, but can become harmful when unfair or unjust disadvantage or frustration is perceived, leading to hostility (Brown, 1986).
Psychopathy is a mental disorder that is characterized by egocentricism, impulsivity, irresponsibility, shallow emotions, and lack of empathy, guilt, or remorse. Pathological lying, manipulativeness, and persistent violation of social norms and expectations are also typical of psychopathic behavior (Hare, 1996). This selfishness, manipulativeness, and continual social deviance are often displayed by aggressive behavior that is psychopathological, due to its connection with psychopathy.
As a manifestation of the disorder itself, the factors that cause psychopathy result in its aggressive behavior. Hare (1996) theorized that psychopathy may be related to cerebral dysfunction “reflecting structural or functional abnormalities in the brain mechanisms and circuitry…responsible for the coordination of cognitive and affective processes (Intrator et al., 1995).” Damage to the medial temporal cortex, amygdala, and particularly of the orbito/ventromedial frontal cortex, has been correlated with “dissociation of the logical/cognitive and affective components of thought(Damasio, Grabowinski, Frank, Galaburda & Damasio, 1994), or even what Damasio, Tranel, and Damasio (1987) refer to as acquired sociopathy” (Hare, 1996, pp 46).
Likewise, Oltmanns, Neale, & Davison (1991) indicate that there is evidence of a genetically inheritable predisposition for psychopathy, possibly involving the autonomic nervous system, which is connected to emotion. This idea is based on studying psychopaths’ particular adeptness at ignoring stimuli.
Research has also supported the theory that psychopaths fail to appreciate the emotional significance of an event or experience. This, along with unwillingness or inability to “process or use the deep semantic meanings of language,” may be causal in psychopaths’ apparently subtle form of thought disorder. This apparent lack of central organization of behavior and logic may be a factor in the aggressiveness of their behavior (Oltmanns, Neale, & Davison, 1991).
Furthermore, the family environment of psychopaths may contribute to their abnormal behavior. A lack of parental affection and severe parental rejection may cause influential adjustment problems. Inconsistency in discipline, and a failure of...