Aggression AO1

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Social Psychological Explanations for Aggression

There are two main social psychological explanations for aggression. The first is Social Learning Theory which was proposed by Bandura and suggests that aggressive behaviour is learnt through observation and imitation. This theory suggests that if a child observes somebody acting aggressively and remembers this action then they are very likely to replicate such a behaviour if they are motivated and are given a suitable opportunity. This motivation can come from vicarious reinforcement, meaning that if the child sees somebody being somehow rewarded for their aggressive behaviour then they feel motivated to replicate the behaviour in the hope that they too will be rewarded. Children are known to be more likely to imitate a model's aggressive behaviour if the model is of the same sex, is of high status and is attractive. Through this theory children are seen to learn to be aggressive. The second explanation is deindividuation which is described as the loss of personal identity and responsibility when being part of a group situation or wearing uniform due to a result of being unable to identify individuals. Deindividuation results in poor self-monitoring, reduced need for social approval, reduced inhibitions against impulsive behaviour and reduced rational thinking. All of these factors combine to make a person more volatile and therefore more likely to act aggressively. Deindividuation can be used to explain incidents such as football hooliganism and violent protests.

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Explanations for Institutional Aggression

There are two explanations for institutional aggression. The first is the importation model which suggests that people import their own social histories, personality traits and dispositions into the institution. In prison institutions three prisoner subcultures have been identified, these are the criminal/thief subculture who are loyal and do not sell out their fellow criminals, the convict subculture which is made up of people who have grown up in a prison setting and look to seek power, and the conventional subculture which is mostly made up of one-time offenders who identify more with the prison guards than the other inmates. These subcultures are thought to have been imported by the prisoners themselves. It has been show nthat the convict subculture is most aggressive as they look to compete against others for positions of power within the prison. Other personal and psychological factors that are imported by prisoners include alcohol dependence, previous work they have done for example being unemployed as well as other demographic variables. Mills found that high levels of aggression in prison positively correlated with high levels of alcohol addiction which would suggest that alcohol dependence is an importation factor that influences aggression. The other explanation is the deprivation model. This model suggests that aggression in institutions is due to situational factors within the institution itself, for example deprivation of goods, services, autonomy, liberty, security and heterosexual relationships. It is suggested that deprivation of such factors leads to higher levels of anxiety and stress which is then expressed and relieved through aggressive behaviour.

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Neural Mechanisms in Aggression

Neural mechanisms for explaining aggression rely on neurochemical imbalances. The first chemical imbalance that is suggested to be related to aggression is serotonin which is a neurotransmitter found in the brain. Serotonin produces a calming effect by inhibiting neurons from firing and so low levels of serotonin can be linked to aggression. This is because those with low levels have no inhibition and so are less able to control aggressive responses to situations an people. Low serotonin has often been linked to increased impulsivity and explosive acts of violence because of this. The second chemical imbalance that is suggested to be related to aggression is dopamine which is another neurotransmitter in the brain. Dopamine is involved in interpreting pain and pleasure and Couppis suggests that pleasurable activities, such as eating, sexual activity and use of recreational drugs, results in dopamine activity that produces a rewarding sensation. Aggression has been linked with high levels of dopamine and this may be because performing aggressive acts results in the same rewarding sensation that is experienced with Couppis' examples. Therefore people who experience this rewarding sensation through aggression will continue to act aggressively and will develop an aggressive personality.

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Genetic Factors in Aggression

Three genetic factors are said to be involved in aggression. The first is chromosomal abnormality and suggests that males who are born with an extra X chromosome and therefore have an XXY genotype are more likely to be aggressive. This trait affects 1 in every 1000 births. The second is heritibility which suggests that individuals inherit aggressive behaviour from previous generations through the transfer of genes and alleles to offspring. Twin studies have been used to investigate this suggestion and these studies look to compare concordance rates of aggression between monozygotic twins and dizygotic twins. If monozygotic twins were to have higher concordance rates for aggression than dizygotic twins it is suggested that aggression must have a genetic basis as in general twins experience the same environmental upbringing. McGuffin and Gottesman showed this through their study which found 87% concordance rate for aggression in monozygotic twins and 72% concordance for dizygotic twins. As the concordance rate for monozygotic twins was higher this would suggest there is a genetic basis to aggression. The third factor is the MAOA gene as it has been found that a variation of this gene produces an overactive enzyme which affects the breakdown of serotonin. This enzyme causes lower levels of serotonin to develop and low serotonin has been linked to increased impulsivity and increased likelihood of explosive violence, therefore suggesting that this variation of the MAOA gene can be linked to aggressive behaviour.

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Evolutionary Explanations of Human Aggression

Aggression is thought to be an adaptive trait as it can be used as a method of winning competition for resources, such as territory, mates or food. This would increase likelihood of survival and therefore would have allowed our ancestors in the EEA to reproduce and pass on genes to offspring, including the adaptive characteristic of aggression. Newman found that a gene that causes aggression has been present in Macaque monkeys for millions of years meaning that it must confer some sort of adaptive advantage to species. One example of extreme aggression is homicide in which one person intentionally kills another. Often the majority of killers and victims are male and a suggestion is that this is because males are very concerned about how people perceive them in society, even in the EEA. Three factors have been linked to such killings. The first is lack of resources, such as money or housing, which results in the inability to attract a long-term mate as due to evolutionary principles females often look to mate with males who are able to provide for them. This inability to attract a mate results in increases social competition and results in male-male murder in order to relieve this competition. The second factor is loss of status; humans will have lived in much smaller groups in the EEA and so status would have been very important in attracting a mate. If a male was to lose status to another male they are more likely to commit murder in order to regain status so they are once again better able to attract a mate. The third factor is sexual jealousy and this occurs when a male is jealous of another male's partner and therefore kills the male in order to have the female for themselves so they can pass on the best genes possible to their offspring. Another example of aggression is an aggressive response to infidelity and jealousy and this is related to mating behaviour. Due to evoltuion men often look for women who can produce and care for children as this allows the male to pass on his genes effectively. Women on the other hand look for men with resources, such as good financial prospects, as this would allow the woman to look after their offspring effectively so they could survive. Due to this men and women respond differently to infidelity. Women are often more distressed if the man has formed an emotional relationship whilst men are more concerned by sexual activity between their partner and another man as this could result in uncertain paternity and cuckoldry, which means investing resources into a child which is not theirs. This can result in an aggressive response from the male as they try to ensure that their partner passes on their genes rather than another male's. (include homicide or infidelity/jealousy or smaller versions of each, don't need both)

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Evolutionary Explanations of Group Display

Group displays in humans can be explained using evolutionary principles including group displays at sports events and in warfare as it is suggested that group displays in the EEA would have been helpful for survival, reproduction and the passing on of a person's genes to their offspring. Sports events have always been associated with violence and often group display in sport can be seen to have replaced tribal warfare in which one identifiable tribe competes against another in a ritualised battle. Sport often involves a display of strength and skill, both of which are indicators of reproductive success, and victory in sports brings increased status to both players and fans which results in better reproductive chances for them. This explanation explains the battle for dominance that often takes place in sports, especially in derby matches where people are competing for similar resources, including territory and mates. Examples of group display include war dances as well as territorial and ritual behaviour. Warfare involves the formation of coalitions to attack others within the same species. It must be assumed that in order for this to be an adaptive behaviour the benefits of such purposes would outweigh the negative costs as fatalities, which prevent survival to reproductive age, often occur in such conflicts. Group display in these situations is therefore beneficial as groups are more powerful than individuals and so are more likely to win in battle. Men are often only willing to fight if they know they will win and must believe that much can be gained from entering into conflict, such as the gain of resources or women as this woulld increase survival and reproductive chances.

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