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Neural and Hormonal Explanations for
A01 Describing theory (9 marks)
Assumption = That aggression is the result of
biological causes. Specifically, people may have an
imbalance of hormones/neurotransmitters or
abnormal brain structure which can lead to
> Role of prefrontal cortex = this controls aggression, damage
to it can lead to aggressive behaviour and personality change.
Cerebral Cortex generally inhibits aggression. Case of Phineas
> Role of amygdala = this stimulates aggression. Careful
lesioning of the amygdala can have a taming effect.
> Role of hypothalamus = Bard & Mountcastle lesioned cats
brains found that stimulating hypothalamus elicits aggression.
Flynn (2006) stimulated lateral hypothalamus = predatory
Stimulated ventromedial hypothalamus =
> Role of testosterone = this is thought to have a positive
relationship with aggressive behaviour. Testosterone is thought
to increase aggression. Testosterone release has a circadian
rhythm & increased levels of aggression seen in males after
puberty as testosterone levels increase.
Nelson found positive correlation between aggression and
androgens in male and female prisoners.
Wagner castrated mice showed reduced aggression
aggression increased as they were given testosterone
Pillay (2006) Most successful athletes in aggressive sports
had higher levels of testosterone as measured from their
> Role of serotonin = this is thought to have an `inhibitory
function' on aggression i.e. as serotonin levels increase,
Davidson found that serotonin levels were significantly
higher in nonviolent criminals than they were in the violent
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Studies of domestic pets have shown that tame animals have
higher levels of serotonin.
Lenard (2008) Showed free range monkeys with higher
levels of serotonin more likely to be killed / harmed at a young
Taking tryptophan (a serotonergic drug which increases
serotonin levels) can reduce aggression in juvenile delinquents
& unpredictable institutionalised patients.
A03 (4 marks) A theory is only as good as
the research which supports it....…read more
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Hormones/Neural Activity (Brain Size/Structure) is easy to measure.
>Aggression is difficult to measure.
Is it scientific? >So, varies in objectivity it is fairly scientific, although still not completely objective. LINK: so,
hormonal/neural theories more valid than some other explanations (e.g. social psychological) as they are more
>It is however, difficult to establish a cause and effect relationship between hormone levels and aggression.
The basal model of testosterone suggests that elevated levels of testosterone are the cause of aggression.…read more