Biological explanation

One idea that cause it is our aggression -
Widely accepted that males are more aggressive than females - hormones are thought to be responsibly, as there are large differences between the hormones of men & women.
Obvious hormone is that men have more testosterone than women - hormone is thought to be the cause of aggression in males. Been supported by the finding that violent criminals have higher levels of testosterone than non-violent criminals.

Second difference between violent & non-violent offenders is a chromosomal abnormality.
Higher than normal purportion of men with an extra Y chromosome amongst violent offenders.
When the 23rd chromosome (sex chromosome) fails to divide, some men end up with an XYY arrangement = certain effects, including making men more aggressive than normal.

Can be caused by interaction of different parts of the brain. Aggression, like other instinctive behaviour, seems to be associated with the limbic system (part of the brain that influences things like eating, sexual behaviour & aggression. Part of brain that controls these behaviours and stops us from being aggressive is the prefrontal correct (highly involved in learning) - knows when instinctive behaviour is appropriate & when it is not. Brain disease affecting either the limbic system or the prefrontal cortex may lead to abnormally high levels of aggression.

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Psychodynamic explanation

Proposed by Freud - suggested we have an unconscious drive that causes aggressive behaviour, just like how it leads to sexual behaviour.
Aggressive behaviour, is caused by an internal force/instinct = Thanstos ( drives us to self destruction) all the time this instinct is building up inside us & creates pressure, until sooner or later we cannot control it & makes us do something aggressive.

Everyone has an instinct towards self destruction & we protect ourselves by using ego defence mechanisms = redirect put aggression outwardly. Rather than harming ourselves we will harm others or redirect our energy into something safe.
2 defence mechanisms Freud identified:
-DISPLACEMENT - being aggressive towards other people.
-SUBLIMATION - channelling our aggression into other acceptable activities.

Dollard et al argued that we might have an aggressive instinct building up inside us, Freud was wrong to suggest that it would suddenly spill over into aggressive behaviour for no reason. As they need something to trigger it off. eg: loaded gun, won't fire unless someone pulls the trigger. He proposed the frustration-aggression explanation which means as well as having an aggressive instinct we also need something to frustrate us in order to release our aggressive behaviour. Frustration can be caused by everyday things such as being late or losing things or arguments - let off steam with aggressive behaviour.

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Social learning theory of aggression

Aggressive behaviour is caused by people seeing how other people behave & copying it. As people encounter new situations, they look to other people for guidance as to how they should act. Children, lots of new situations, more likely than adults to copy what they see (IMITATION)

Stresses the importance of vicarious learning. Learn new ways to behave just by watching what other people are doing. Clearly demonstrated by young children who swear. Only reason young children will swear is because they have heard someone else do it and it would not be something they would do otherwise.
Children more likely to imitate role models of they are similar (same age/sex), attractive, powerful or caring. Most important element is if they see the model being reinforced for doing something. If child sees someone being reinforced for being aggressive they will be reinforced for being aggressive too, this expectation that motivates their behaviour. eg: film, in which hero defeats the villain by hitting him - child might learn that hitting is a successful way of getting what you want. Result - aggressive behaviour has been learned.

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Social learning theory of aggression

All the time, people monitor their own behaviour. Bandura (1963) realised that not only is reinforcement external but it can also come from inside, form of pride or self-satisfaction. If we feel good about what we have done, this too will strengthen it. In this way, we monitor ourselves. Therefore, if we feel good about acting aggressively, we will do it again.

One implication of children voting way they see is that punishment can actually have the opposite effect to what is intended. Parents are role models - more likely than any one else to be copied by their children. So if a child is hit by his/her parent, he/she will learn to hit others just by experiencing it. SO parent is unintentionally teaching the child that aggressive behaviour. Seen this behaviour of a role model, children will copy it.

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Biological investigations - Young et al (1959)

Aim: hormones have on aggression.

-young injected pregnant rhesus monkeys with testosterone & observed the levels of aggression in their off-spring as they matured.

High levels of testosterone during pregnancy made the females grow up to behavior like male monkeys - engaged in rough-and-tumble play & challenged the males for dominance in their troop.

Testosterone does seem to play a vital part in aggresive behaviour.

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Biological investigations - Raine (1997)

Aim: brains of murderers.

Method: researchers gave 41 murderers in California a PET scan and compared them with a similar group of non-murderers.

Results: some differences - activity in the prefrontal cortex of the miserere was lower than in non - murderers.

Conclusion: when the pre-frontal cortex (& other parts of the brain) is not working normally, it can lead to people committing violent crimes.

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Other investigations - Barker (1941)

Aim: frustration on aggressive behaviour.

Method: children kept a long time before being allowed to play in a room full of attractive toys. Behaviour was then observed.

Results: children were more aggresive & destructive than other children who had not been frustrated by being kept waiting.

Conclusion: being frustrated does lead to an increase in aggression.

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Other investigations - Megargee & Mendelsohn (1962

Aim: link between aggression & personality type.

Method: people who had committed brutally aggressive crimes were interviewed and given personality traits.

Results: criminals seemed to have been 'over controlled' and repressed their anger until it built up to such an extent that it just exploded following something really trival.

Conclusion: if people do not let their aggressive instinct out in small amounts from time to time, the build-up will be so great that they will not be able to control it.

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Evaluation for biological/other investigations

-when participants of the study are all violent offenders, we have to be careful about applying conclusion to the rest of population.
-we must remember that people can lie in interviews and personality tests.
-difficult to standardise 'frustration'. What is frustrating for one person may not be for another.

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Social learning theory - Bandura et al. (1963)

Aim: if 3-6 year old children would imitate the aggressive behaviour they see role models performing towards an inflatable 'bobo' doll.

Method: researchers divided by 96 children into 4 groups, three of which were shown someone throwing, kicking & punching the 'bobo' doll. Their own behaviour was then observed.

-children who had witnessed the aggressive behaviour showed more aggressive behaviour than the children who had seen none.

Conclusion: children will copy how they see others behave.

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Further research into SLT - Liebert & Baron (1972)

Aim: watching violent tv programmes had any effect on aggressive behaviour in children.

-one group of children was shown quite a violent TV programme while another was shown an equally exciting sporting event.
-2 groups were observed at play.

Violent programme = more aggressive than the group who watched the sporting programme.

Conclusion: watching violence on TV increases the level of aggressive in children's behaviour.

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Evaluation for Social Learning theory research

-both laboratory based studies & might not reflect what happens in the real world.
-witnessing aggression would have an effect if the child's parents are present to explain why such behaviour is wrong because when children are young it's parents are more influential than most other role models.

-contradictory evidence concerning the effect of watching aggressive behaviour - St. Helena project found that observing more violence does not have any impact on aggressive behaviour in children.

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Charlton et al. (2000)

Aim: introduction of tv (aggression role models) to a community would affect the aggressive behaviour of children.

Method: 2 years after the island of St. Helena first received tv transmissions, the behaviour of the children was monitored.

Results: children showed no increase of aggression behaviour.

Conclusion: Merely watching aggressive role models will not be sufficient to make children copy aggressive behaviour.

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Evaluation for Charlton et al

-high ecological validity because it took place over a 2 year period & children behaviour was recorded in their normal surrounding. - behaviour was natural.

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Biological methods of reducing aggression

  • aggression behaviour is caused by biological factors, thecway to reduce it must be to focus on biology too.
    one way: use of drugs. The case with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD). So if there is a drug to control that then it should be possibly to stop aggressive behaviour.
    DRUG RITALIN - stimulates activity in brain, reduces the aggressive behaviour caused by ADHD. This is because, when the prefrontal cortex is stimulated, it is able to control the aggressive instincts caused by the limbic system.

Psychosurgery - alternative method of dealing with brain disease, by either removing or destroying the part of the brain that is not functioning properly. - done by inserting a probe to a very precise location and heating up the end to kill the nerves (limbic system to be responsible for aggressive behaviour & usually part of the limbic system that is destroyed). This is used as a last resort, because one brain tissue is destroyed & will not grow back. So if there is a mistake that is made with the operation, consequences are permanent which means that this procedure is not used very often.

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Psychodynamic methods of reducing aggression

  • redirect them into other, safe activities using ego defence mechanisms such as displacement and sublimation.
  • realise them through catharsis. Playwriters in Ancient Greece filled their plays with murders & other unpleasant things. Because they believed that, if people watched this on stagec it would 'get it out of their system'. - might be less likely to commit murder themselves. Freud agreed with this principle because it fitted in with his idea about aggression being caused by a build-up of instincts. So Freud would suggest it is a good thing to watch violence on tv and in films, because it is cathartic; it gets aggressive instincts out of your system.

-finding a safe activity for ourselves that requires a certain amount of energy = SUBLIMATION.
If we can put energy into a safe activity, such as sport, it will reduce the build-up of our aggressive instincts. This will make it less likely that we will suddenly have an aggressive outburst for no apparent reason.

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Evaluation for reducing aggression

-best way to reduce aggression is to avoid situations that cause frustration. This can be difficult because very often we are not in control of those things that cause frustration, such as your favourite football team losing. Theory argues that, since it is frustration that causes an outburst of aggressive behaviour, avoiding frustration is still the most effective way of avoiding aggression.

-explanations sometimes conflict. eg: watching football & team loses, you will become frustrated and get aggressive but biological explanation says if your team wins, there will be an increase in your testosterone level and you will also become aggressive.

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Social learning method of reducing aggression & Ba

-observe non - aggressive role models or to see a role model being punished for being aggressive.
Second idea was tested by Bandura.

Bandura (1965)
Aim: observing a role model being punished would reduce the chanc of aggression being copied.

Method: children were shown an adult model either being punished or reinforced for acting aggressively.

Results: children who saw the model being punished were less aggressive themselves than those who saw the model reinforced.

Conclusion: children see that aggression brings a punishment, they will not copy it.

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Evaluation of Bandura's study

-children know that some behaviour is wrong, but will copy it anyway when they think there will be no punishment for them.

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Huesmann et al (1983)

Aim: teaching children to think more carefully about what they see would reduce aggression.

-group of children were taught that what happens on tv is not real.
-camera sometimes depicts things that do not happen and people mostly use non-violent methods of resolving problems.
-children's behaviour was then compared with that of another group of children who did not receive any training.

Results: children who received training showed less aggression than the other group.

Conclusion: aggression can be reduced by making children think about how they behave so that role models on tv become less influential.

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Evaluation of Huesmann's study

-problem with applying this training outside the experiment is that many parents would have difficulty explaining such psychological ideas to their children. As parents do not have the training to explain concepts in a way children can understand and parents are not always present when children are watching tv programmes so they can't explain and discuss the programme afterwards.

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