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Neural and Hormonal Mechanisms in Aggression Essay Plan
1. Describe hormonal mechanisms- testosterone-Dabbs looked at salivary testosterone in
violent and non violent criminals. Found highest testosterone levels had a history of primarily
violent crimes and lowest levels had committed only non violent crimes. Wingfield-
monogamous species- testosterone levels should only rise above the baseline breeding
level in response to social challenges e.g. male-male aggression or threats to status. Cortisol-
mediating effect on other aggression- related hormones like testosterone. Due to the fact it
increases anxiety and the likelihood of social withdrawal Dabbs. Virkkunen- high levels of
Cortisol inhibit testosterone levels and so inhibit aggression, low levels of Cortisol in habitual
2. Briefly describe Serotonin- low levels linked to increased vulnerability to impulsive
behaviour, aggression and even violent suicide. Dopamine- increases in dopamine activity via
the use of amphetamines have also been associated with increases in aggressive behaviour-
3. Critical Point 1: This theory is flawed. Albert claims that other studies have found no
relationship between aggression and testosterone levels, in particular studies that
compared testosterone levels of aggressive and less aggressive individuals. Therefore, this
seems to disprove the link between the two variables making the explanation useless.
4. Critical Point 2: There is also a methodological flaw in the research about the hormone
testosterone being linked with aggression. In the majority of studies they are small samples
involving men within prisons and are self report measures of aggression or even just based
on the severity of the crime committed. As a result of this, it can be difficult to judge whether
the results found from the studies actually suggest a link or whether it is a combination of
factors that result in aggressive behaviour.
5. Critical Point 3: There is a trouble defining whether it is aggression or dominance. Mazur
claims that individuals inflict injury to be aggressive but they act dominantly if they wish to
achieve or maintain status over another. Consequently, before judging whether there is a link
between aggression and testosterone aggression needs to be properly identified.
Otherwise it is difficult to work out when someone is being aggressive and when someone is
6. Critical Point 4: However, the idea about Cortisol having a moderating effect on aggressive
behaviour is supported by studies. McBurnett found that boys with consistently low Cortisol
levels began antisocial acts at a younger age and showed three times the number of
aggressive symptoms compared to boys with higher or fluctuating Cortisol levels. Therefore,
this proves the explanation about Cortisol relevant to real cases and useful.