Theories Of Aggression Essay

1493 words - 6 pages

Aggression is an ordeal that affects all human beings. Leonard Berkowitz defines aggression as "behaviour carried out with the intention to harm someone. In its extreme form, aggression is a deliberate attempt to do serious injury as in violence" (Berkowitz). This is a good generalization of the term. However, it is very limited and doesn't emphasize the various alternative theories of aggression. These include the ethological approach, the frustration-aggression hypothesis, the social learning theory, and the social-cognitive perspective. In this paper, I will outline the basics of each theory and proceed to list pros and cons for each. This will allow the reader to distinguish the theories and therefore have a better understanding of what causes aggressive behaviour.Growing evidence supports the claim that ethological factors predispose some people toward aggression. Ethology is "the comparative study of the biological bases of animal and human behaviour" (Parke and Slaby). It argues that behaviour evolved for survival and reproductive purposes. Famous ethologist Konrad Lorenz sees aggression as an instinctual system. He describes it as an innate urge that is triggered by specific environmental stimuli. Lorenz outlines three primary species-preserving functions that lead to aggression in animals. The first is the ecological function, which allows a man to fight for his territory. The second is the intraspecific combat function which leads to the theory of natural selection. The last function is brood defence, which says the species that can best protect their youth will survive over the long term. Behavioural scientists have criticized mainly three aspects of Lorenz's work. First is his dependence on animal instincts and his negligence of the process of social learning. It has been proven that learned behaviour takes precedence in a situation of aggression. Next, Lorenz's theory revolves around his use of an energy model of motivation. Recent studies have concluded that energy models are too deceptive because there is no neurophysiological evidence to support them. Lastly, Lorenz's studies are mostly performed on animals. The behaviour of human beings is much more complex and this factor is neglected in these studies. While some of Lorenz's ideas have been negated, there is still widespread evidence that biological factors influence some individuals toward aggression. It has been suggested that certain brain areas are responsible for aggressive behaviour including the hippocampus and the amygdale (Moyer). In a focused study, it was found that people who suffer from reduced levels of serotonin are more probable to suffer from inability to control their aggressive impulses (Asberg et al). It has been proven that hormonal factors such as increased testosterone may lead to more aggression (Olweus). These results lead toward the view that ethological factors can play a vital role in aggression.The frustration-aggression hypothesis demonstrates that...

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