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Neural and hormonal influences of aggression

Assume that aggression is located within biological make-up of the individual rather than in the environment around them.

  • Low levels of serotonin
  • High levels of testosterone
  • Abnormalities in hippocampus functioning
  • Abnormalities in amygdala
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Neural influences – fast response cannot conscious

The limbic system is an area of the brain that helps coordinate behaviour that satisfy motivational and emotional urges. Two key structures in the limbic system that are associated with aggression are amygdala and the hippocampus.

The amygdala: this quickly evaluates the emotional importance of sensory information and prompting an appropriate response if certain areas are stimulated electrically. An animal responds with aggression like snarling if these areas are surgically removed the animal would no longer respond to that stimuli  Kulver and Bucy 1937 discovered that the destruction of the amygdala in the monkey who was dominate in a social group caused it to lose its dominant place in the group – you can provoke it so you can measure through observation use FMRI or observe someone in a damaged brain.  Research support: amygdala- Pardini et al 2014: found that reduced amygdala volume can predict the development of aggression they carried out a longitudinal study of male p's from childhood to adulthood. p's had varying histories of violence were subjected to a brain MRI at age 26 the results showed that the amygdala plays an important role in evaluating the emotional importance of sensory information and that lower amygdala volume compromises this ability and makes a violent response more likely

The hippocampus involved in formation in formation of long-term memory  and allows an animal had previously been attacked by another animal the next time they encounter that animal they encounter that animal they are likely to respond with aggression or fear whichever is more appropriate impaired hippocampal function prevents the nervous system from putting things into a relevant and meaningful context and so may cause the amygdala to respond inappropriately to sensory stimuli resulting in aggressive behavior. Research support: Hippocampus- Raine et al., (2004) found that habitually violent offenders exhibited abnormalities of hippocampal functioning. Studied two groups of violent criminals convicted more calculating and evaded more impulsive found the hippocampus differed in size which impairs the ability of the hippocampus and the amygdala to work together leading to an inappropriate response. 

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Neural influences – fast response cannot conscious

Serotonin this exerts a calming, inhibitory effect on neuronal firing in the brain serotonin typically inhibits the firing of the amygdala the part of the brain that controls fear and anger low levels of serotonin remove inhibitory effect with the consequence that individuals are less able to control impulsive and aggressive behaviour as a results the amygdala is stimulated by external events it becomes more active causing the person to act on their impulses and making aggression more likely. Although it was thought to reduce aggression by inhibiting responses to emotional stimuli that might otherwise lead to an aggressive response low levels of serotonin in the brain have been associated with an increased susceptibility to impulsive behaviour and aggression some drugs are thought to alter serotonin levels and increase aggressive behaviour Evidence: Mann (1990) when levels of serotonin were artificially reduced by a drug (dexfenfluramine) participants responses to an aggression questionnaire were increased (not in females though!)  Findings on serotonin replicated in vervet monkeys with tryptophan (Raleigh et al, 1991)but, issues of:  extrapolation, Ethics

Findings on serotonin also confirmed via studies on anti-depressants

§  However, Leonard (2008) cautions that serotonin not just linked to aggression: also to impulsive behaviour, depression, over-eating, alcohol abuse; violent suicide. Are we sure, that serotonin cause’s aggression as It can cause other things. Cannot say it causes it but an factor or effect

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Research support: serotonin

Duke et al 2013 provided support for serotonin deficiency as an explanation for aggressive behavior meta-analysis of 175 studied involving 6,500 P’s found inverse relationship relationship between serotonin levels and aggression anger and hostility they also found that the magnitude of the relationship varied with the methods used to assess serotonin functioning with year of publication and with self-reported aggression which was positively correlated to serotonin functioning this suggests that the relationship between serotonin and aggression is more complex than originally thought.

There may be cultural differences which suggests that aggression is not totally bias however suggest that environmental factors effect aggression to which could suggest that different cultures discourage/ encourage aggressive behavior. Tribes unite around aggressive behavior for survival. Or laddish behavior and gun culture

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Hormonal influences- slow response

Testosterone produces male characteristic’s, which reach peak level in young males the male sex hormone is though to influences aggression from young adulthood onwards due to its action on brain areas that involve controlling aggression. Sapolsky 1998 wrote how removing the source of testosterone in different species typically resulted in much lower levels of aggression subsequently reinstating normal testosterone levels with injections of synthetic testorone led to return of aggressive behavior.

The idea that testosterone is related to human aggression comes from various sources for example men are genually more aggressive then women. Archer 1990 in addition at an age when testosterone concentrations of testosterone than women in addition Dabbs said at any age when testosterone concentrations are at their highest there is an increase in male-on-male aggressive behavior. Dabbs 1987 measured salivary testosterone in violent and non-violent criminals. Carre and Olmstead 2015 claim that testosterone concentrations are not static but fluctuate rapidly in content of changes to the social environment changes in testosterone levels appear to influence aggressive behavior by increasing amygdala reactivity during the processing of social threat.

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Inconsistent evidence: Despite many studies showing a positive relationship between testosterone and oppression other studies find no such correlation for example positive correlations have been reported between levels of testosterone and self-reported levels and the likelihood of responding aggressively to provocation on the other hand no correlation was found between testosterone levels and actual violent behavior among male inmates in prison this suggests that the relationship between testosterone and aggression in humans remains unclear

Aggression or dominance Mazur 1985 suggests we should distinguish aggression from dominance individuals act aggressively when their intent is to inflict injury whereas they act dominantly is their wish is to achieve or maintain status over another individual they claim that aggression is just one form of dominant behavior in non-human animals the influence of testosterone on dominance behavior might be shown through aggressive behavior in humans however the influence of testosterone on dominance is likely to be expressed in more varied and subtle ways Elisenegger found that testosterone could make women act nicer rather than more aggressive this lends to support to the idea that rather than directly increasing aggression testosterone promotes status seeking behavior which is aggression type one.

All neural and hormonal influences have been criticised for being reductionist as the complexity of human social behaviour means that a biological explanation is insufficient on its own to explain all the different aspects of aggression. For example, the mere presence or level of hormones or neurones are not sufficient in invoking aggression, as seen by a significant population of people that are not aggressive. Similarly, the role of social learning has shown to provide a big influence and it is clearly known that the endocrine system consists of a complex array of communication pathways, none of which act independently. These biological mechanisms therefore cannot provide a holistic account as it is likely that hormones and the environment interact to bring about an aggressive response. Charlie cooper and he did find evidence for a reward pathway being engaged in mice showing dopamine to be a positive reinforce. Nevertheless, this may suggest that dopamine is more of a consequence of aggression and not a cause.

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Genetic factors in aggression – biological approac

Looking for 100% concordance rates (for every one identical twin that displays the characteristics so does every second one. If 50% half the identical twins will show the characteristics) never 100% concordance rates as other factors involved

Monozygotic (MZ) (identical) twins share all of their genes while DZ twins (non-identical) share only 50%. researchers compare the degree of similarity for a particular trait between the sets of MZ twins and compare that with sets of DZ twins if the MZ twins are more alike in aggressive behaviour then this should be due to genes rather than environment. (Both sets of twins share the same environment and MZ twins share the same genes so if they are more alike in terms of aggressive behaviour this should be shared with genes)

Coccarao et al 1997 found that nearly 50% of the variance in direct aggressive behaviour could be attributed to genetic factor

However many studies in this area have focused exclusively on individuals convicted of violent crime. Difficulty trying to draw meaningful conclusions from these studies. Convictions for violent crime are relatively few compared to the vast number of violent attacks that do not result in conviction therefore only represent a small minority. These studies also do not take into account that MZ may be treated more similarly in the environment than DZ twins causing them to develop similar behaviours.

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Adoption studies

 adoption studies can help to untangle the relative contribution of environment and heredity in aggression.

14,000 adoptions in Denmark between 1927-1947 Hutching and Mednick 1975

-          Groups- base line criminal rate 14%

-           children of violent criminal biological parents adopted to non- criminal parents 20%

-          Children of non-criminal biological parents adopted by criminal parents- 15%

-          Both biological and adoptive parents – 25%

if a positive correlation is found between aggressive behaviour in adopted children and aggressive behaviour in their biological parents, a genetic effect is implied. As those with criminal parents show high % of those that go on to commit crime. And those with both criminal in biological and adoptive even higher. But other factors may affect why this rate is so high.  genetic factors may interact with environmental factors such as emotional distress that may come from being adopted hard to establish a direct connection 

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Genetic factors

Rhee and waldman (2002) combined the results of 51 twin and adoption studies and concluded that aggressive anti-social behaviour was largely a product of genetic contributions. However, in this study as with the miles and carey study above several variables including age and assessment method of aggression although genetic factors play a significant part in the development of aggressive behaviours the influence of other factors affects their expression.

However many of the reported studies of aggression have relied on either parental or self-reports of aggressive behaviour whereas other studies have made use of observational techniques. Meta-analysis found genetic factors explained a large proportion of the variance in aggressive behaviour studies that had used parental and self-reports use of observational methods showed less genetic contribution  and greater influence of genetic factors this makes it hard to assess the contributions of each factors.

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MAOA- not missing the gene but missing a nutrient

Gene MAOA is responsible for regulation of metabolism of serotonin in the brain, which are associated with aggressive behaviours.

Genes and serotonin- it is argued that neurological levels are genetically determined the gene responsible for producing MAOA (Monoamine Oxidase) has been associated with aggressive behaviour A Dutch family with multiple brothers found that the males were very violent and they were all found to have low levels of MAOA and a defect on their X chromosome was also identified (Brunner et al 1993).  May explain different rates of crime in male and female the MAOA gene is linked to the X chromosome women have two X where as men only have one women inheriting same gene unlikely to be affected this could explain why men exert behaviour that is more aggressive. However could lead to alpha gender bias

Caspi et al 2002 found that children with low levels of MAOA + MAOA-L displayed more anti-social behaviour but only if they had been maltreated as children, children with high MAOA+ MAOA-L and who were maltreated and those with MAOA-L who were not mistreated were not likely to become aggressive ( if just mistreated psycho-dynamic approach)

The warrior gene MAOA-L is more frequent in populations with a history of warfare with about 2/3’s of people in these populations having this version of the gene by way of contrast only about 1/3 of people in western populations have this low activity this has led to it being referred to as the warrior gene McDermott et al 2009 found that MAOA-L participants displayed higher levels of aggression when provoked than did MAOA-H subjects

Evaluation: Tihonen et al (2015) found that MAOA-L in combination with another gene CDH13 was associated with extremely violent behaviour in Finnish prisoners there was no evidence of these genes amongst non-violent offenders however while these genes may lower the control of violent urges they do not predetermine violent behaviour

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Ethological research: A01-FAPS and IRM

Lorenz argued that aggression is an instinctive drive that has evolved to ensure the strongest and fittest pass on their genes.  Ethologist Tinbergen these are called fixed action patterns (FAP).  Behaviour occurs in the same way/ Independent of individual experience- the behaviour is innate with no learning involved/ Ballistic- once triggered cannot be stopped/ Specific triggers- each FAP has a specific trigger

 FAPS are produced by a neural mechanism known as an innate releasing mechanism (IRM) and triggered by a very specific stimulus known as a sign stimulus. The IRM receives its input from sensory recognition circuits that are stimulated by the presence of the sign stimulus. The IRM then communicates with motor control Circuits to activate (Le release) the FAP associated with that sign stimulus.

The hydraulic model- Each FAP has a reservoir of action-specific energy ASE that builds up over time the appropriate sign stimulus causes the IRM to release this energy and the animal then performs FAP. Behaviour only repeated when ASE is built up.

 A problem for the hydraulic model- A problem however, for Lorenz's hydraulic model was the issue of feedback Lorenz argued that when levels of ASE reached a critical point, this would lead to performance of a fixed action pattern. This would then lead to a reduction in biological energy and a corresponding reduction in the likelihood of aggressive behaviour, However challenged by von Holst (1954) showed that the performance of an aggressive behaviour could itself provide a further stimulus which, rather than reducing the likelihood of further aggressive behaviour, made it more likely.

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ritualistic aggression

 not all-aggressive behaviour involves fighting but may be ritualised in the form of threat displays. These threat displays are important as they help individuals to assess their relative strength before deciding to escalate a conflict. For example, male gorillas use different vocalisations and gestures to intimidate an opponent without the need to physical contact. Threat displays are intended to make an opponent back down before an animal either fights or subunits and leaves. Anthropologists have found evidence of ritualised aggression in human cultures. Fox (1978) also found evidence of highly ritualised fighting among males of the Gaelic-speaking Tory Island Off the coast of Ireland. This research can be generalised to human behaviour

Some species have evolved fearsome weapons that make them effective hunters - Wolves have powerful jaws and strong teeth. Lorenz (1952) claimed that such species Must also have instinctive inhibitions prevent the Dominant animal from continuing the fight. (They do not want to damage these so they would not want to fight for the death). Non-hunting species, have no such powerful natural weapons, and therefore have not developed the same inhibitions against to their own kind. For example, when two birds fight, the loser can simply fly away. Therefore this comparison had implications for the human species. Humans are more like the dove when it comes to dealing with other human beings. We do not have powerful natural weapons. Unfortunately, Science and technology has far outpaced our biological evolution, as humans have developed weapons of tremendous destructive power without also developing instinctive inhibitions against using them. (Why difference between human and animal)

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1. suffers with biological determinism as underestimated the role of environmental factors. A more holistic approach where environmental factors interact with innate factors in complex ways. Nowadays the Term fixed action pattern tends not to be used within ethology and has been replaced by the term behaviour pattern' to reflect the fact that these are not simply innate and can be modified by experience. subtle variations between members of the same species in the production of aggressive behaviours, shown that patterns of aggressive behaviour are not as fixed. For example conditioning during Pavlov where he conditioned dogs to salivate when a bell was rang highlighting animals that they have learned from their environment. // //  2. Tinbergen's research with sticklebacks showed that a male stickleback fish would produce a fixed sequence of aggressive actions when another male enters its territory. The sign. Stimulus in this case is not the presence of the other male, but the sight of its distinctive Red underbelly that acts as the sign stimulus. If this is covered up, the intruder is not attacked (Tinbergen, 1951). Issue- they are not mammals.

3. in non-human species, the main advantage of ritualised aggression is that it prevents conflicts escalating, evidence suggests this advantage is evident in human cultures. Hoebel among Inuit Eskimos. conflicts can be settled through ritualised club song duels. This shows even in their head from an opponent's club before delivering moderately to highly violent cultures their own blow in return. such as the Yanomamo, rituals have the effect of reducing actual aggression and preventing injury or death of the combatants. And validates the application of ethological research to human behaviour.

4. A problem for the ethological explanation of aggression concerns the claim that predator species must also have instinctive inhibitions. In some predator species, the killing is more systematic than accidental For example, male lions will kill off the cubs of other males, and male chimpanzees will routinely kill members of another group. These findings pose a challenge for the ethological explanation of aggression as they cast doubt on the claim that much of animal aggression is ritualistic rather than real.


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Evolutionary explanations of aggression

 Evolutionary explanations of aggression: is based on the premise that the human brain is aproduct of evolution through natural selection.


·       -  Aggression is universal and not culturally specific if any variation disagrees suggests for a holistic approach

·         - Aggression will be explained from the point of view that it would have served an adaptive purpose in the EEA

·     -   Due to differing gender roles within the EEA this behaviour may be more present in males

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The evolution of human aggression

Duntley and Buss, 2004 Aggression is a strategy that would have been effective for solving a number of adaptive problems among early humans. Solving these problems enhanced the survival + reproductive success of the individual, and as a result this mental module would have spread through me gene pool. reproductive challenges faced by our ancestors can explain the aggressive behaviour seen in people today A man can never be certain that he is the father of his wife’s children unless he prevents her having relationships with other men. If a man’s partner is unfaithful risks cuckoldry (may invest resources in rearing children that are not his own). Male sexual jealousy may therefore have evolved to prevent infidelity by women and reduce the risk of cuckoldry.  According to Daly & Wilson (1988), men have evolved different strategies to deter their partners from committing adultery, ranging from vigilance (watching their every move – e.g. asking who they talk to on the phone, stopping them going out with friends, reading texts etc) to violence. All of these are the result of male jealousy and paternal uncertainty (being unable to be certain he is the father of her children). This can explain why male sexual jealousy is often cited as a cause of domestic violence. In many countries it is seen as acceptable to murder an adulterous wife or her lover.

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sexual competition

Ancestral males seeking access to females would have had to compete with other males. Puts (2010) argues that various male traits seem to imply that competition with other men did take place. For example, men have 75% more muscle mass than women. Those individuals who used aggression successfully against competitors more successful in reproductive successes This would then have led to the development genetically transmitted tendency for males to be aggressive towards other males.

 Buss (1988) argues that males have developed strategies for mate retention. These include direct guarding (restricting her movements) of the female and negative inducements to prevent her straying (financial control, threat of violence if they are unfaithful or even so much as look at another man, etc).

Wilson et al (1995) found support for the link between sexual jealousy, mate retention and violence. In a questionnaire, women who indicated that their partners were jealous and did not like them talking to other men were twice as likely to have experienced violence from their partners (72% of these needing medical attention).

Studies of battered women, show that in the majority of cases, women cite extreme jealousy on the part of their husbands or boyfriends as the key cause of the violence directed toward them (Dobash and Dobash, 1984). Dell (1984) concluded that sexual jealousy accounted for 17% of a cases of murder in the UK Men are predominantly the perpetrators and the victims.

 Shackleford et al (2000). They analysed 13,670 uxorocides and found that younger women were most at risk which, as the women were in their reproductive prime .A better explanation (The Evolved Homicide Module Theory; Duntley & Buss, 2005) might be that when a woman is unfaithful, not only does the man lose a partner, but another man also gains a partner. By killing his partner the man at least prevents his competitor gaining a reproductive advantage over him.

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Male on male homicide

Sexual jealousy is a further motivator in male-male homicide. A meta-analysis of 8 studies of same-sex killings involving love triangles found that 92% were male-male and only 8% were female-female (Daly & Wilson, 1988). If, as is suggested above, homicide is an evolved behaviour then it is very likely that the ability to defend against murder has also evolved, such as being able to read the signs of homicidal intent. This would make homicide a very risky and dangerous behaviour to engage in (Duntley & Buss, 2004), and so it is likely that selection favours the ability of people to deceive others, e.g. the ability to hide homicidal intent from an intended victim. Also, if homicide has evolved then we would expect all people to behave in a similar way, however 3 different people may react to the same situation in 3 different ways – e.g. one may beat his unfaithful wife, the second may murder her, and the third may just get drunk. And evolution cannot explain why some cultures require violence to attain social status, whereas in others it leads to irreparable reputational damage (Buss & Shackleford, 1997).

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Male on male homicide: evaluation

Homicide (murder) is the most extreme form of aggression. The vast majority of murderers and their victims are men (Buss & Shackleford, 1997). A disproportionate percentage (relative to the normal population) of male murderers and male victims are unemployed and unmarried – a Detroit study found that 43% of victims and 41% of murderers were unemployed even though the population unemployment rates were only 11%. Also 73% of male murderers and 69% of male victims were unmarried. This suggests a lack of resources (unemployment leads to less money, less food, poorer housing etc) and the inability to have a long-term relationship lead to increased social competition and men murdering men. Another reason that men kill men is to defend their status in a peer group. In our evolutionary past, loss of status could be harmful for survival and reproduction. Even though status is largely irrelevant for survival nowadays, it is an evolved behaviour that is passed on genetically.

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Male on male homicide: evaluation

Homicide (murder) is the most extreme form of aggression. The vast majority of murderers and their victims are men (Buss & Shackleford, 1997). A disproportionate percentage (relative to the normal population) of male murderers and male victims are unemployed and unmarried – a Detroit study found that 43% of victims and 41% of murderers were unemployed even though the population unemployment rates were only 11%. Also 73% of male murderers and 69% of male victims were unmarried. This suggests a lack of resources (unemployment leads to less money, less food, poorer housing etc) and the inability to have a long-term relationship lead to increased social competition and men murdering men. Another reason that men kill men is to defend their status in a peer group. In our evolutionary past, loss of status could be harmful for survival and reproduction. Even though status is largely irrelevant for survival nowadays, it is an evolved behaviour that is passed on genetically.

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A02 - An important implication of research into sexual jealousy and violence is that mate retention techniques (e.g. direct guarding and negative inducements) can be the early signs of a violent man. Educating people in these danger signs can reduce the likelihood of women becoming victims of violence.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                     Gender differences could be due to socialisation- Prinz (2012) argues that differences in the aggressive behaviour of males and females may also be the product of different socialisation experiences For example Smetana (1989) found that parents are more likely to physically punish boys for bad conduct whereas when girls misbehave, parents tend to explain to them why their actions were wrong. This could increase male physical violence. As girls learn they are less powerful than boys, this may lead them to adopt other more social forms of aggression (behaviours designed to harm another person's social status) rather than physical aggression. This casts doubt on the claim that males alone have evolved aggression as a way of dealing with rivals, as females have simply developed a different form of aggressive behaviour

Aggressive behaviour may not always be adaptive- One problem with seeing aggressive behaviour as being an effective way to meet the challenges of social living can result in social exclusion, injury or even death in extreme cases. For example, violent males might be rejected as mates, and warriors might die in battle In other words, it might be considered more maladaptive than adaptive in some cases. However, Duntley and Buss (2004) point out that the benefits of aggression must only have outweighed the costs on average relative to other strategies in the evolutionary past If this is the case, then natural selection will favour the evolution of aggressive behaviours, eventually making them fundamental components of human nature


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issues and debates

Much research makes use of questionnaires and surveys to collect data Surveys are a self report method and therefore has inherent difficulties with collecting reliable and valid data. If a man is asked to complete a questionnaire asking how violent he is towards his partner, then it is most likely that he will distort the truth due to his desire to appear more socially desirable than he actually is (social desirability bias). Similarly, a woman may be less likely to accurately report her partner as abusive if she fears recriminations from him, or she may even choose to deny the truth about his behaviour because acknowledging it could mean the end of her relationship with him. Questionnaires and surveys may not therefore reveal the true extent and nature of male jealousy. Research into infidelity is gender biased. The evolutionary argument for infidelity states that it is something a man must prevent a woman from doing, and does not really acknowledge the fact that men may be just as unfaithful as women. This is heavily gender biased and does not reveal the true nature of male and female infidelity. Nature nurture debate. Evolutionary explanations argue that behaviour has evolved through gene selection and is therefore biological. If jealousy and uxoricide were really evolved responses to female infidelity and determined by genes, then we would expect all men to behave violently to women, but clearly they do not. There must, therefore, be an alternative explanation that takes into account the fact that men may have naturally aggressive responses to female infidelity, but that also explains why many men do not behave violently and others do. Social learning theory may account for this as violent men may have grown up with violent role models, and have learned to be violent by observing them.

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THE FRUSTRATION-AGGRESSION: environmental influenc

Psychodynamic: Dollard et al’s (1939) argues all aggression was the result of frustration, which they defined as any stimulus that prevents an individual from attaining some goal.Although he believed frustration was a necessary condition for aggression,also contextual factors, such as threat of punishment, could inhibit aggressive behaviour. The frustration-aggression hypothesis predicts a cause-effect relationship between frustration aggression and catharsis. Frustration, according to the hypothesis, leads to the arousal of an aggressive drive, which then leads to aggressive behaviour. Aggressive urges relieved through aggressive behaviour, which therefore has a cathartic effect. Frustration increases when our motivation to achieve a goal is very strong, when we expect gratification and when there is nothing, we can do about it. For example, Brown et al (2001) surveyed British holidaymakers who were prevented from travelling by ferry to France because French fishing boats blocked the French port of Calais Brown et al found an increase in hostile attitudes toward the French as a result of the passenger’s frustration. Doob and Sears (1939) investigate conditions that would lead to aggression. Asked participants to imagine how they would feel in a number of different frustrating situations, such as waiting for a bus which went by without stopping Most participants reported that they would feel angry in all of the frustrating situations. However, Pastore (1952) distinguished between justified and unjustified frustration, arguing that it was mainly the latter that produces anger and aggression Pastore produced different versions of the situations used by Doob and Sears but this time using situations involving justified as well as unjustified frustration. For example, the situation involving a bus that did not stop was changed to indicate that the bus was clearly displaying an out of service message. Under this condition (Justified aggression) participants expressed much lower levels of anger.  When people are frustrated, they experience a drive to be aggressive towards the object of their frustration. However, because it is often inappropriate to behave aggressively, as a result any attempt to be aggressive is inhibited, Dollard et al assumed that aggression is sometimes displaced from the source of the frustration on to something else.  Because a person may have an impulse to attack the source of their frustration (e.g. their boss, the bank, the government, etc), but because this is impossible they respond by kicking the dog instead in other words, in order to experience catharsis, a scapegoat needs to be found

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A revised frustration-aggression hypothesis (Berko

 A major problem for the original model is that frustration is neither necessary nor sufficient for aggression can also occur in the absence of frustration. Berkowitz's revised frustration-aggression hypothesis argued that frustration is only one of many different types of unpleasant experience that can lead to aggression. These unpleasant experiences create negative affect in the individual, creating uncomfortable feelings. It is these negative feelings and not the frustration that triggers the aggression For example, anything that interferes with our ability to reach an anticipated goal is experienced as an unpleasant experience. This frustration produces negative affect (such as anger), and it is the anger that creates the tendency to engage in aggressive behaviour. That an unanticipated interference is more likely to provoke an aggressive reaction because the former is experienced as more unpleasant. Under this reformulation of the frustration-aggression hypothesis, the nature of the frustrating event is less important than how negative is the resulting effect.

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The frustration-aggression hypothesis provides us with real-world applications particularly in understanding how mass killings of groups of people occur. Staub (1996) suggested mass killings were rooted in frustration which was caused by social and economic difficulties people faced within society. These frustrations then led to scapegoating of a particular group which led to discrimination and aggression towards them. This explanation has been used to explain the aggression directed towards Jews during the second world war and although ordinary Germans were not responsible, they condoned the violence (Goldhagen 1996) blaming them for the countries problems. This demonstrates how widespread frustration which is manipulated by media and propaganda can lead to violence consequences and scapegoating. This is more important than ever considering the far-right political parties spreading across Europe with immigration (scapegoats) being blamed as the culprit.

There has been supporting evidence for the frustration aggression hypothesis from the real world on sports violence Priks (2010) found supporting evidence for the frustration-aggression hypothesis in a study of violent behaviour among Swedish football fans He used teams changed position in the league as a measure of frustration and the number of objects (missiles, fireworks, etc.) thrown as a measure of aggression. The study showed that when a team performed worse than their fans expected, its supporters threw more things onto the pitch. A one-position drop in the league led to a 5% increase in such unruly behaviour. These findings suggest that supporters become more aggressive when expectations of good performance are frustrated thus supporting the frustration aggression hypothesis. This supports the frustration aggression hypothesis which would consequently explain the outbreak of aggressive behaviour in particular regarding sports fans.

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Aggression is not an automatic consequence of frustration: Social learning theorists have argued that aggressive behaviour is only one possible response to frustration. They claim that frustration produces only generalised arousal, and that social learning determines how that arousal will influence an individual’s behaviour. An individual may respond to frustration by engaging in aggressive behaviour if it has been effective for them before ( conditioning) or if they have observed it being effective in others (.e. social learning). This alternative view states that rather than frustration always leading to some form of aggression, as claimed by the frustration-aggression hypothesis, an individual learns to produce aggressive actions and also learns the circumstances under which they are likely to be successful.

Lack of research support for the central claims: Early critics of the frustration-aggression hypothesis claimed that many of the claims made by Dollard et al simply had no support, either in research or in real life. The concept of catharsis, for example, that aggression reduces arousal so that people are less likely to be aggressive, has not been supported by research have found that behaving aggressively is likely to lead to more rather than less aggression in the future. Bushman found that aggressive behaviour kept aggressive thoughts and angry feelings active in memory and made people more angry and more aggressive, directly contradicting the claims that catharsis reduces aggression. This shows that the frustration aggression hypothesis claims made by Dollard et al does not have support, in research or real life.

 Much of the research the frustration-aggression hypothesis was based on relied on hypothetical situations that participants had to imagine and answer questions on. The answers may therefore not reflect their true feelings in the given situation and it would be unethical to manipulate someone to feel frustration to measure aggression. This would have low predictive validity because participants are saying how they think they would feel and in reality they may act very differently.

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issues and debates

The theory suffers from gender bias as it cannot fully explain why men tend to be more aggressive than women. It is likely both genders feel the same frustration however the fact that men are more inclined to act on it rather than women suggests socialization and the expectation of gender roles as Bandura suggests is a factor in the expression of aggression. Another factor that may better explain the expression of aggression is the cognitive explanation which suggests it is maladaptive thoughts and belief systems (possibly due to socialization and expectations of gender roles) which encourage men to act on frustration. Women on the other hand would be more inclined to avoid or back down from such which would better fit in with explaining the disparity between male and female aggression.

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SOCIAL LEARNING THEORY: psychological explanatio


Bandura and Walters (1963) believed that aggression could not be explained using traditional learning theory where only direct experience was seen as responsible for the acquisition of new behaviours. Social learning theory (SLT) suggests that we also learn by observing others we learn the specifics of aggressive behaviour. (e.g. the forms it takes, how often it is enacted, the situations that produce it and the targets towards which it is directed).

 Reciprocal determinism: is when the individuals and the environment interact and affect each other shaping our behaviour

 SLT is often described as the bridge between traditional learning theory: and the cognitive approach. This is because it focuses on how mental (cognitive) doctors are involved in learning. These mental factors mediate (ie, intervene) in the learning process to determine whether a new response is acquired

 cognitive schema - Children learn rules of conduct from those around them, such as when and how to be aggressive These rules (the script) then become internalised Once established in childhood, this pattern of aggression can become a way of life

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learned responses

Key Concept 1: Imitation: This is the term used to describe when an individual observes a behaviour from a role model and copies it. The imitation is more appropriate than copying, as the behaviour is often not able to be copied, exactly, it is merely a simulation

 Key Concept 2: Identification:Whereas Skinner's operant conditioning theory claimed that learning takes place through direct reinforcement, Bandura suggested that children also learn by observing role models with whom they identify. People (especially children) are much more likely to imitate the behaviour of people with whom they identify, called role models. This process is called modelling. A person becomes a role model if they are seen to possess similar characteristics to the observer and/or are attractive and have high status. Role models may not necessarily be physically present in the environment, and this has important implications for the influence of the media on behaviour

 Key Concept 3: Modelling: When someone is influential on an in some way, they are referred to in SLT as a model. If the individual then imitates that person's behaviour later it is called modelling the behaviour. This term is only used when referring to behaviour that is imitated

 Key Concept 4: Vicarious Reinforcement: This is the term used to describe the reinforcement the observer sees the model receiving.They do not receive the reward themselves; they see someone else get it. This is called indirect reinforcement Children witness many examples of aggressive behaviour at home and at school as well as on television and in films. A reinforcement, such as reward, makes a behaviour more likely to happen again When it is vicarious, the person learns by observing the consequences of another person's behaviour it a child gradually learns something about what is considered appropriate. Thus, they learn the behaviours (through observation) and they learn whether and when such behaviours are worth repeating

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production of behaviour

 This occurs between observing the behaviour (stimulus) and imitating it or not (response). Some though prior to imitation this consideration is called mediational processes. Bandura (1986) claimed

 1. Attention: For a behaviour to be imitated it has to grab our attention. We observe many behaviours on a daily basis and many of these are not noteworthy Attention is therefore extremely important in whether a behaviour has an influence in others imitating it

 2. Retention:  The behaviour must be remembered therefore that a memory of the behaviour is formed to be performed later by the observer. Much of social learning is not immediate so this process is especially vital in those cases Even if the behaviour is reproduced shortly after seeing it, there needs to be a memory to refer

 3. Reproduction: must be given the opportunity to copy. We see much behaviour on a daily basis that we would like to be able to imitate but that this not always possible. This influences our decisions whether to try and imitate it or not.

 4 Motivation: Given purpose The rewards and punishment that follow a behaviour will be considered by the observer. If the perceived rewards outweighs the perceived costs (if there are any) then the behaviour will be more likely to be imitated by the observer, If the vicarious reinforcement is not seen to be important enough to the observer then they will not imitate the behaviour

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Key study: Bandura et al. (1961) only used to supp


Procedure The participants were male and female children ranging from three to five years. Half were exposed to adult models interacting aggressively with a life-sized inflatable Bobo doll and half exposed to models that were non-aggressive towards the doll. The model displayed distinctive Physically aggressive acts toward the doll, e.g. striking it on the head with the mallet and kicking it about the room, accompanied by verbal aggression.  Following exposure to the model, children were frustrated by being shown attractive toys which they were not allowed to play with They were then taken to a room where, among other toys, there was a Bobo doll

Findings Children in the aggression condition reproduced a good deal of physically and verbally aggressive behaviour resembling that of the model. Children in the non-aggressive group exhibited virtually no aggression toward the doll. Approximately one-third of the children in the aggressive condition repeated the model's verbal responses, while none of the children in the non-aggressive group made such remarks Boys reproduced more imitative physical aggression than girls, but they Did not differ in their imitation of verbal aggression

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Lack of realism in research Early research on social learning relied heavily on the sort of experimental study carried out by Bandura and colleagues described opposite However, there are significant methodological problems with the Bobo doll studies A doll is not a living person, and does not retaliate .This raises questions about whether these studies tell us much about the imitation of aggression toward other human beings the lack ecological validity as they were conduct. We cannot say that the social learning effect that occurs in a laboratory could apply to the real world. However, Bandura responded to this criticism by having children watch a film of an adult model hitting a clown. Children were subsequently let into the room with the down they proceeded to imitate the same aggressive behaviour they had seen in the film

 The consequences of social learning The belief that aggressive behaviour can be learned through social learning and can remain persistent throughout life, has raised concerns about the widespread availability of aggressive models in young people's lives. The American Psychological Association (APA) believes that aggression can be learned in this way, then it can also be modified ACT Against Violence is an intervention programme sponsored by the APA that aims to educate parents and others about the dangers of providing aggressive role models and to encourage parents to provide more positive role models instead. For example, Weymouth and Howe (2011) found that after completing the programme parent’s demonstrated increases in positive parenting and continuation of physical punishment thus showing that the power of social learning can be used to decrease aggressive behaviour.

 Mirror neuron research found that peoples reward pathways activated by observing others being rewarded. Biological evidence of mirror neurons suggest that there is physiological evidence for the SLT through cognitive support for SLT imitation of behaviour research found that peoples reward pathways activated by observing others being rewarded. Showing the interaction between the environment and biology

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issues and debates

Social learning theory is a more holistic approach , which allows for biology and cognitive explanations to also have a role. Previous learning theory principles have been argued to be reductionist due to portraying humans as simple stimulus response machines however, social learning theory helps explain the cognitive element, more which is in line with the complexity of human thinking.

Social learning theory can be used to explain cultural differences in aggression Among the Kung San of the Kalahari Desert, aggression is comparatively rare so why is this the case? The answer lies in the child-rearing practices of the Kung San First when two children argue or fight, parents neither reward nor punish them but physically separate them and try to distract their attention on to other things. Second, parents do not use physical punishment and aggressive postures are avoided by adults and devalued by the society as a whole The absence of direct reinforcement of aggressive behaviour as well as the absence of aggressive models means there is little opportunity or motivation for Kung San children to acquire aggressive behaviours

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De-Individuation theory

De-Individuation theory –Zimbardo 1969 introduces deindividuation where-by people lose personal identity and hence inhibition about violence this has been used to describe hooliganism

 De-individuation theory is based on the classic crowd theory of Gustave Le Bon (1895). Le Bon described how an individual was transformed. In a crowd setting, the combination of anonymity, loss of self-awareness, diffused responsibility. Therefore, the individual loses self-control and becomes capable of acting in a way that goes against personal or social norms.

 The process of de-individuation: Festinger et al (1952) deindividuation is a psychological state in which inner restraints are lost when individuals are not seen as people. Being anonymous (and therefore effectively accountable) in a crowd has the psychological consequence of reducing inner restraints and increasing behaviours that are usually inhibited. Although Zimbardo has stressed that these same conditions may also lead to an increase in prosocial behaviours (for example, crowds at music festivals and large religious gatherings). The focus of deindividuation theory is on anti-social behaviour Zimbardo (1969), being part of a crowd can diminish awareness of our individuality each person is faceless and anonymous - the larger the group, the greater the anonymity. There is a diminished fear of the negative evaluation of actions and a reduced sense of guilt. Conditions that increase anonymity also minimise concerns about evaluation by others, and so weaken the normal barriers to anti-social behaviour that are based on guilt or shame Research has demonstrated that individuals who believe their identities are unknown are more likely to behave in an aggressive manner. Factors that contribute to this state of de-individuation include anonymity (eg. wearing a uniform) and altered consciousness due to drugs of alcohol.

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Research support on deindividuation

Key study: Zimbardo (1969)

Procedure: Groups of four female undergraduates were required to deliver electric shocks to another student to aid learning. Half of the participants wore bulky lab coats and hoods that hid their faces, sat in separate cubicles and were never referred to by name. The other participants wore their normal clothes, were given large name tags to wear and were introduced to each other by name. They were also able to see each other when seated at the shock machines.

Findings: Participants in the de-individuation condition (i.e. hooded and no name tags) were twice more likely to press a button that they believed would give shocks to a victim in another room. They held the shock button down for twice as long as did identifiable participants.

This study explains:  that anonymity and diffusion of responsibility, a key component of the de-individuation process, increased aggressiveness.

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Deinviduation theory lack validity as it is based on evidence conducted under controlled lab conditions were PP’s were asked to perform actions that were unfamiliar or unlikely to happen in their everyday life. This issues was addressed by Rehm et al. (1987) found support for Zimbardo's deindividuation through an investigation of the effect of increased anonymity on aggressive behaviour in sport. Conducted research into real life displays of aggression shown by 11 year olds in sport when only half of the players in each team were made to waer uniform. This indicates the uniformed teams displayed more aggressive acts then non-uniformed teams although this effect was only apparent for boys teams no difference in aggressive acts were displayed by members of the female teams. Therefore this evidence suggests that deinvividuation displays gender bias because the theory assumes males and females will be affected by crowd behaviour in the same way although further evidence would suggest this is not true. From a physiological perspective the reasons for the gender differences shown by Rehm’s research can be attributed to male team members having higher levels of the male hormone testosterone which research has shown can contribute to displays of aggressive behaviour.

 Inconclusive support for de-individuation: Evidence for de individuation theory is mixed, A meta-analysis of 60 studies of de-individuation (Postmes and Spears, 1998) concludes that there is insufficient support for the major claims of deindividuation theory. For example, Postmes and Spears found that disinhibition and anti-social behaviour are not more common in large groups and anonymous settings. Rather, they found that deindividuation increases people's responsiveness to situational norms, ie what most people regard as appropriate behaviour in a given situation. This may lead to aggressive anti-normative behaviour, but it could also lead to increased prosocial behaviour. For example, Spivey and Prentice-Dunn (1990) found that de-individuation could lead to either prosocial or anti-social behaviour depending on situational factors. When prosocial environmental cues were present such as a prosocial model). de-individuated participants performed significantly more altruistic acts (giving money) and significantly fewer anti-social acts (giving electric shocks) compared to a control group.

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A02- Real-world application - The baiting crowd


Mann (1981) used the concept of deindividuation to explain a bizarre aspect of collective behaviour - the baiting crowd and suicide jumpers. The baiting crowd lends support to the notion of the crowd as a deindividuation ‘mob’.  Mann analysed 21 suicide leaps reported in US newspapers in the 1960s and 1970s. He found that in 10 of the 21 cases where a crowd had gathered to watch, baiting had occur (ie the crowd had urged the potential suicide jumper to jump). These incidents tended to occur at night, when the crowd was large and some distance from the person being taunted (particularly when the jumper was high above them) All these features were likely to produce a state of de-individuation in the members of the crowd. The power of the baiting mob was also evident in Mullen's analysis of newspaper cuttings of 60 lynching’s in the United States between 1899 and 1946 (Mullen, 1986). He found that the more people there were in the mob, the greater the savage with which the perpetrators killed their victims.

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Issues and debates

However, cross-cultural research has indicated the universal nature of deindividuation Watson (1973) collected data on warriors in 23 cultures and found that warriors who concealed their identity in conflict situations were more aggressive than those who were identifiable. This evidence therefore suggests that the aggression that results from the reduction of personal identity maybe genetically determined which may have evolved because fitness in males was directly related to their ability to provide and protect their family- so aggression would have been an adaptive behaviour.  

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Institutional aggression

prisons are dangerous there has been and accelerating number of prisoners being murdered or assaulted. This theory aims to explain why prisons are so violent. Either (dispositional explanation) full of dangerous people or (situational theory) the nature of prison influences aggression.

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Institutional aggression is the product of the stressful and oppressive conditions of the prison itself. Paterline and Peterson 1999. The deprivation model argues that, in response to these oppressive conditions, inmates may act more aggressively.

 Sykes (1958) described the specific deprivation that inmates experience within prison might be linked to an increase in violence. These included the loss of liberty, the loss of autonomy and the loss of security. Inmates may cope with the pains of imprisonment in several ways. Some choose to withdraw through seclusion in their cell, whereas others choose to rebel in the form of violence against others Institutional aggression is influenced and determined solely by prison-specific variables, rather than inmate characteristics (as in the importation model). 

Kimmet and Martin, 2002: A study of over 200 prison inmates discovered that violence in prison is frequently a way of surviving the risk of exploitation  (by appearing weak), an ever-present threat within prison culture They found that most violent situations in prisons were more to do with non-material interests such as the need for respect and fairness on as a way of expressing loyalty and honour


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role of prison characteristics

Cooke et al. (2008) claim that in order to understand institutional aggression, we need to consider the situational context where violence takes place. They argue that violent prisoners are only violent in certain circumstances.

     Overcrowding - A government report in 2014 (Ministry of Justice. 2014) attributed the record rates of murder, suicide and assaults to the increased overcrowding in British prisons A Japanese study (Yuma, 2010) found that prison population density had a significant effect on inmate-inmate violence rates, even after controlling for other possible contributing factors

·         Heat and noise - Prisons tend to be hot and noisy places. High temperatures and noise exacerbate the effects of overcrowding and may predispose inmates to aggressive behaviour. For example, Griffitt and Veitch (1971), in a study of students, found that a combination of high temperature and high population density produced more negative emotions than was the case with more comfortable temperatures and lower population density.

·         Job burnout - Job burnout among prison staff refers to the experience of being psychologically worn out and exhausted from a job and a gradual loss of caring about the people with whom they work This has been linked to the development of violence in prison settings because of a deterioration in relationships with inmates (Maslach et al, 2001) and the overall functioning of the prison

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Links to the frustration aggression model whereby the prisons goals are blocked getting out of prison which leads aggression. Also deinviduation a lack of autonomy in prisons leads to deinviduation leading to aggressive behaviour. 

There is substantial research evidence to support the claim that peer violence is used to relieve the deprivation experienced in institutional cultures, such as prisons. McCorkle et al (1995), in a major study of 371 US prisons, found that situational factors such as overcrowding lack of privacy and the lack of meaningful activity all significantly influenced inmate-on-inmate assaults and inmate-on-staff assaults. Franklin et al. (2006) also found a relationship between age of inmates and crowding Their meta-analysis found that crowded prison conditions increased aggressive behaviour in younger inmates (aged 18 to 25) more so than in other age groups

The link between situational factors and institutional aggression is challenged by the findings of one of the most exhaustive studies of prison violence (Harer and Steffensmeier 1996). They collected data from more than 24,000 inmates from 58 prisons across the US. They included importation variables (eg. race and criminal history) and deprivation variables (eg staff-to-prisoner ratio and security level and tested which of these variables predicted the individual likelihood of aggressive behaviour while in prison Harer and Steffensmeier concluded that race age and criminal history were the only significant predictors of prison violence, whereas none of the deprivation variables were significant in this respect

          A real-world application of the deprivation model happened at HMP Woodhill in the early 1990 Prison Governor David Wilson reasoned that if most violence occurs in environments that are hot noisy and overcrowded, then this could be avoided by reducing these three factors. Wilson set up two units for violent prisoners that were less claustrophobic and prison-like and gave a view to outside. The typical noise associated with prison life was reduced and masked by music from a Focal radio station. Temperature was lowered so that it was no longer stiflingly hot, These changes virtually eradicated assaults on prison staff and other inmates, providing powerful support for the Claim that situational variables are the main cause of prison violence (Wilson 2010)

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Irwin and Cressy (1962) claim that inmates bring with the their violent pasts and draw on their experiences in an environment where toughness and physical exploitation are Important survival skills.  Prisoners are not blank slates when they enter prison and many normative systems developed on the outside would be imported into the prison.  In many cities street culture has evolved what may be called a code of the streets a set of informal rules governing interpersonal public behaviour, including violence. At the heart of this code is the issue of respect, i.e being granted the deference one deserves. Cultural belief systems such as the code of street define how some individuals behave once in prison particularly when this code relates to gang membership.

 Gang membership

Within prison environments, gang membership is consistently related to violence and other forms of anti-social behaviour. Pre-prison gang membership be an important determinant of prison misconduct Several studies (Allender and Marcel, 2003) have found that gang members disproportionately engage in acts of prison violence Members of street gangs often at higher levels while in prison than their non-gang counterparts and account for a disproportionate amount of serious and violent crime Study of over 1,000 inmates in prisons in the southwest of the USA (Drury and DeLisi 2011) found that Individuals who had been members of gangs prior to imprisonment were significantly more to commit various types of misconduct in prison including murder hostage taking and adult with a deadly weapon.

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The role of dispositional characteristics

The role of dispositional characteristics: found to relate to aggressive behaviour in prison include the following

  •     Anger, anti-social personality style and impulsivity - Wang and Diamond (1999) found that these three individual characteristics were stronger predictors of institutional aggression than ethnicity and type of offence committed. Of these, anger was the best predictor of violent behaviour while in prison.
  • Low self-control-Delisi et al (2003) found that low self-control, particularly the tendency to lose one's temper easily, was a significant predictor of aggressive behaviour both before and during incarceration

Links to maternal deprivation people in prison there is a disproportional amount of prisoners suffering from maternal deprivation which has been linked to affectionless psychopathy which leads to an increase in aggression.

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·         This model has received some research support Mears et al. (2013) tested the view that inmate behaviour stems in part from the cultural belief systems that they import with them into prison They measured the street code belief system and the prison experiences of inmates. Their results Supported the argument that a code of the street belief system affects inmate violence This effect is particularly pronounced among those inmates who lack family support and are involved in gangs prior to incarceration. Other research support for the importation model comes from Poole and Regoli (1983). They found that the best indicator of violence among juvenile offenders was pre-institutional violence regardless of any situational factors in the institution

 Evidence from Delisi et al. (2004) challenges the claim that pre-prison gang membership predicts violence whilst in prison. They found that inmates with prior street gang involvement were no more likely than other inmates to engage in prison violence. The lack of an association found in this Study, however, can be explained by the fact that violent gang members tend to be isolated from the general inmate population, therefore greatly restricting their opportunities for violence For example, Fischer (2001) found that isolating known gang members in a special management unit reduced the rates of serious assault by 50%.

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Issues debates and approaches (IDA) for institutio


 Research into institutional aggression is gender biased much of the research into institutional aggression focuses on interactions between members of prison populations or the armed forces, which, by their very nature, consist of predominately-male populations. Generalising from these institutions to other institutions, such as work places, should therefore be treated with caution.

Nature nurture debate the importation model of institutional aggression considers both the underlying personality of the individuals within an institution as well as their pre-prison environment; however, the deprivation model only considers the environment individuals find themselves in.

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Media influences on aggression

Edgar (1977) there has been generated social concern and in spite that many findings tends to be unable to find a link between media and the rise in aggression but there has been raising concerns about excessive game play and violent behaviour in real life. Technological advancements have led to a hyper-reality leading to desensitisation there is a danger of imitation.

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Laboratory and field experiments, researchers randomly assign participants to either an experimental condition where they view violent film scenes, or a control condition where they watch non-violent scenes. They are then observed to see how they interact with other people after viewing the film. A consistent finding from both laboratory and field experiments is that those who watch violent scenes subsequently display more aggressive behaviour and have more aggressive thoughts or aggressive emotions than those who do not. For example, Bjorkqvist (1985) exposed 5 to 6-year-old Finnish children to either violent or non-violent films. Compared with the children who had viewed the non-violent film, those who had watched the violent film were subsequently rate much higher on measures of physical aggression (e.g. hitting other children). This has ethical concerns as he is exposing children to violent material which could have long term damage.

 Longitudinal studies allow researchers to track individuals over time in order to assess the impact of early experiences on behaviour later in life. For example, Huesmann et al (2003) studied 557 children between the ages of 6 and 10, and then 329 of these 15 years later. They found that habitual early exposure to TV violence was predictive of adult aggression later in life and that this applied to both boys and girls. This relationship persisted even when the possible effects of socioeconomic status, intelligence and any differences in parenting styles were controlled.

 Meta-analyses allow researchers to summarise the findings of many different individual studies of the effects of media violence. For example. Bushman and Huesmann (2006) carried out a meta-analysis of 431 studies, involving over 68,000 participants. Of these, 264 studies involved children and 167 involved adults. Most of the studies had looked at the impact of violent TV, but others had also looked at the effect of video games, music and comic books. Overall, they found modest but significant effect sizes for exposure to media violence on aggressive behaviours, aggressive thoughts angry feelings and arousal levels. The short-term effects of violent media were greater for adults than for children, whereas the long-term effects were greater for children than for adults.

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Research on the impact of violent computer games is still in its relative infancy, vat Porter and Starcevic (2007) suggest, interactive violence in video games has the potential to exert even more influence than TV violence, where the viewer plays a more passive role addition, during violent game play, aggression is rewarded and is portrayed as being both appropriate and effective.

 Lab experiments Gentile and Stone, 2005 have found short-term increases in levels of physiological arousal, hostile feelings and aggressive behaviour following violent game play compared to non-violent game play. Aggressive behaviour cannot be studied directly, as this is not permitted on ethical grounds, so other forms of behaviour must be used instead. For example Anderson and Dill (2000) found that participants blasted their opponents with white noise for longer and rated themselves higher on the Stare Hostility Scale after playing a violent first person shooter game compared to those who played a slow-paced puzzle game.

 Longitudinal studies Anderson et al. (2007) surveyed 430 children aged between seven and nine at two points during the school year. Children who had high exposure to violent video games became more verbally and physically aggressive and less prosocial as rated by themselves, their peers and their teachers. Adachi and Willoughby (2013) suggest that the longitudinal link found between violent video games and aggression may be due to the competitive nature of the games, rather than the violence, as violent video games tend to be more competitive than non-violent games.

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Media violence research: Overstating the case many studies that claim a ‘statistically significant’ relationship between violent media and violent behaviour are overstating the case. Ferguson and Kilburn (2009) found that if violence to another person or violent crime is the measure of aggression used, then the relationship between exposure to media violence and aggressive behaviour is actually close to zero. this suggests that studies are not representing all violence found in society and. so the link between media and violence may not be as strong as has been claimed

Simple questions but complex answers it may be that we are asking simple questions that have far more complex answers. Livingstone (1996) discussed the problem in generalising the predominantly American based research to countries with different media and cultural histories. this suggests that studies need to have better experimental controls and longer follow up periods. if they are to be a convincing representation of the of the relationship between media and aggression.

 Failure to consider other causal variables Many studies in this area are correlation research and fail to account for other variables that explain why some people display aggressive behaviour and why those same people may choose to play violent computer games. It may be that there are other factors leading to aggressive behaviour in those that play violent computer games. Ferguson et al (2009) showed that the effects of violent media content on aggressive behaviour disappears if factors such as trait aggression, family violence and mental health are taken into consideration. this suggests that other risk factors may be the primary cause of aggressive behaviour and as such, exposure to media violence is not a causal factor.

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 Problems with research on the effects of computer games A major weakness of lab experiments in this area is that researchers cannot measure real-life aggression. A major weakness of lab experiments in this area is that researchers cannot measure ‘real-life’ aggression. which means that they use measures of aggression that have no relationship to real-life aggression and can only measure short-term effects. Longitudinal studies can observe real life patterns of behaviour and observe both short and long term effects. however these studies cannot control for the participants’ exposure to other forms of media violence so we cannot be sure that we are only measuring the effects of computer games this means that research into the effects of violent computer games  may not accurately measure the link with aggression.

Game difficulty rather than content may lead to aggression there may be another explanation rather than VVG content leading to aggression in real life. Przybylski et al (2014) suggested that aggressive behaviour may be due to failure and frustration during the game rather than because of the content. this suggests that the problem does not lie in the violence exhibited as non-violent games also led to aggression so it may be that research needs to focus elsewhere to find the actual source of aggression in VVGs.


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Explanations of media influences: Desensitisation

Desensitisation assume that, under normal conditions anxiety about violence inhibits its use. Media violence, however, may lead to aggressive behaviour by removing this anxiety. The more televised violence a child watches, the more acceptable aggressive behaviour becomes for that child. Frequent viewing of television violence may cause children to be less anxious about violence someone who becomes desensitised to violence may therefore perceive it as more 'normal and be more likely to engage in violence themselves. Desensitisation to media violence typically takes a long time - a result of numerous repeated exposures to violent films or violent computer games One indication that desensitisation has occurred is a reduction in physiological arousal (e.g. heart rate and skin conductance response) when individuals are exposed to real violence after having been repeatedly exposed to media violence (Linz et al 1989). Other indications are a change in the cognitive and affective reactions would otherwise have occurred in the absence of desensitisation. For exam affective reactions that desensitised individuals are less likely to notice violence in real life, they feel less sympathy for the victims of violence and they have less negative attitudes toward violence, all of which would increase the likelihood of aggressive responses in real life (Mullin and Linz, 1995)

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Research support for desensitisation Garagey et al. (2007) tested the claim that playing violent computer games produces physiological desensitisation, i.e. showing less physiological arousal to violence in the real world after exposure to computer game violence. Participants played either a violent or non-violent video game for 20 minutes and then watched a 10-minute film clip containing scenes of real-life violence while their heart rate and skin conductance response (a measure of physiological arousal) were monitored. Those participants who had previously played the violent computer game had a lower heart rate and skin conductance response while viewing the filmed real-life violence. This demonstrated a physiological desensitisation to violence, as predicted by this explanation.

 The good and bad of desensitisation: Desensitisation can be adaptive for individuals. For example, for troops, desensitisation to the horrors of combat makes these individuals more effective in their role. However, desensitisation to violent stimuli may also be detrimental for both the individual and society. Bushman and Anderson (2009), for example, suggest that there are worrying consequences when individuals are desensitised to violence after exposure to violent media. They found that violent media exposure can reduce helping behaviour that might otherwise be offered to others in distress. They claim that people exposed to media violence become comfortably numb to the pain and suffering of others and are consequently less helpful.

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 Our ideas of the acceptability (or otherwise) of harming others are primarily acquired through social transmission, including exposure to moral messages on television and in other media. The justification of violence in the media is, therefore, one of the ways in which children can infer standards of acceptable behaviour. According to the disinhibition explanation watching or playing violent media may change these standards of what is considered acceptable behaviour Exposure to violent media can legitimise the use of violence by the individual in their own lives because it undermines the social sanctions that usually inhibit such behaviour Disinhibition may have both an immediate effect and a long-term effect. Violence on TV or in a computer game triggers physiological arousal, which leads to a greater probability of behaving aggressively. In this aroused state, inhibitions are temporarily suppressed by the drive to act. In the longer term, prolonged exposure to media violence gives the message that violence is a normal part of everyday life. When violence is justified or left unpunished on television, the viewer's guilt or concern about consequences is also reduced. The child then feels less inhibited about being aggressive again.

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 The disinhibition effect depends on other factors: The likelihood of disinhibition taking place is determined by a number of factors, some of which relate to the viewers themselves, and some to the context in which media is viewed. For example, younger children are more likely to be affected because they are more likely to be drawn into high-action violent episodes without considering the motives or consequences of the violence (Collins, 1989). Children growing up in households with strong norms against violence are unlikely to experience sufficient disinhibition for them to exhibit aggressive behaviour, whereas the disinhibition effect is stronger in families where children experience physical punishment from their parents In addition, where they identify more with violent heroes (Heath et al, 1989). This demonstrates that the relationship between media violence and disinhibition is not a straightforward one, and is mediated by a number of individual and social characteristics.

 Negative consequences make disinhibition more likely: Research suggests that disinhibition is more likely in situations where viewers are also exposed to the negative consequences of violent behaviour. For example, Goranson (1969) showed people a film of a boxing match where there were two alternate endings In one ending. there were no apparent consequences, but in the second ending, the loser of the fight was seen to take a bad beating and he ended up dying Participants who did not see the negative consequences were more likely to behave aggressively after viewing the fight than were those who did see the consequences, supporting the suggestion that disinhibition may be far more likely in violent media where the negative consequences are not made apparent to or understood by viewers.

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Cognitive priming

Berkowitz (1984) proposed the idea of cognitive priming to explain the short-term effects of media violence. The term priming' refers to a temporary increase in the accessibility of thoughts and ideas. He proposed that when people are constantly exposed to violent media, this activates thoughts or ideas about violence, which in turn, activate (e prime) other aggressive thoughts through their association in memory pathways For example, playing a computer game in which the player kills other characters may prime thoughts of physical fighting, which may then lead to feelings of anger and motivation to harm others. A violent film can, according to this explanation, temporarily lower the threshold for activation of these thoughts, making them accessible for a short time. The more accessible a thought or idea, the more likely it is to be used to interpret social information. Frequent activation through prolonged exposure to violent media may result in a lowered activation threshold for these aggressive thoughts, allowing them to be accessed more readily and so used to process and interpret information. For example, Zelli et al. (1995) found that priming by aggressive stimuli influenced individuals to make hostile attributions about the behaviour of other people These hostile attributions, in turn, increase the likelihood of aggressive behaviour.

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 research support for cognitive priming: Bushman (1998) tested the hypothesis that exposure to violent media makes aggressive thoughts more accessible to viewers. In. this study, undergraduate participants watched either a 15-minute segment of a violent film or a non-violent film. Participants who watched the violent film subsequently had faster reaction times to aggressive words than did those who had seen the non-violent film Video content did not, however, influence reaction times to nonaggressive words. This suggests that exposure to violent media primes memories related to aggression. Cognitive priming has also been supported in research on computer game play Anderson and Dill (2000) found that individuals who played violent computer games subsequently had more cognitively accessible aggressive thoughts than did individuals who played non-violent computer games. They concluded that a single incident of violent game play had primed aggressive thoughts in these participants.

 Priming is less likely with less realistic media: Atkin (1983) suggests that film or game realism is an important factor in the relationship between exposure to violent media and the priming of aggressive thoughts and behaviours. Atkin found that higher levels of aggression resulted from the viewing of more realistic or realistically perceived violence. The fictional violence in some computer games for example, may not have the same priming effects as in games with more realistic violence. This suggests that exposure to more realistic and intense forms of aggression versus cartoon or animated forms of aggression may influence the types and intensity of activated thoughts and ideas, which may then manifest themselves in different ways.

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