The Role of the brain and aggression
How the brain might control aggression
Which parts of the brain might affect aggression levels
Amygdala: a brain structure thought to be involved in aggression
limbic system: an area of the brain involved in emotion
the limbic system looks a bit like a wishbone, it is called the 'emotional area' of the brain becuase it is responsible for emotions needed for survival like fear and aggression.
people with emotional disorders often are found to have damage to their limbic system
The amygdala recognises emotion, smiles=happy, frowns=sad, the amygdala also creates emotional responsies.
In animal studies, if the amygdala is removed from the animal, it becomes very calm and doesn't respond to threatening sistuation with aggression.
Difficulties researching human brain biology
human and animal brains are similar but not enough to make a direct comparison.
we cannot purposly damage a human brain to see if it results in aggression and stimualtion of the brain is very risky.
Evaluation the link between biology and aggression
- Animal studies that have involved damage to or removal of the amygdaa offer evidence for its link to aggression
- The case study of charles whitman and King are evidence for its link with aggression in humans
- Studying the human brain is difficult and can be very risky, so no way to make sure areas of brain are linked to aggression
- Animals and humans are different in many ways, link between the two brains may not be applicable to humans
- Case studies are unreliable, reason for aggression may be unique to individual
- Aggression could be explained by how children copy the media
Role of hormones and aggression
hormones: chemicals produce by the human body that send signals to organs around the body via the bloodstream
Males are normally more aggressive than females.
Testosterone is secreted by the adrenal gland and testes and is needed to produce sperm, develop male reproductive organs and male features (facial hair and deep voice)
Women also have testosterone but males produce up to 10mg more everyday ten times more than a woman
Castrating a male animal lowers its testosterone level, this makes the animal less aggressive, if it is then injected with testosterone the aggression level is restored to that before castration.
This is strong evidence that testosterone is linked to aggression, we cannot test this in humans as it is not ethical to deliberately increase or decrease testosterone in men to study aggression levels.
Aggression in humans is different as humans are less instinctive and consider the consequences of their actions and are more reasoned in their actions than animals.
Aggression in humans
Psychologists can take blood from humans to measure testosterone levels and compare the how aggressive they feel and act. Some Correlation studies (studies to see a link between two variables) have a relationship between high testosterone and questionnaire results. Not certain whether testosterone causes increased aggression or aggression cause increased testosterone.
Evaluating the role of testosterone on aggression
In animals, there is a clear cause and effect relationship between testosterone and aggression
Human studies show a relationship between aggression and testosterone
Not all humans with high testosterone levels are aggressive. some more sporty or career drive, testosterone creates the drive but doesn't always mean violent.
Correlation and animals studies have weaknesses, animals may not apply to humans and correlation studies look at relationships and not direct evidence
If testosterone causes aggression why ar some women more violent than men?
This explanation of aggression ignores the fact of up bring and social circumstance on our behavior
Social Learning Theory
Observational Learning: the process of learning from watching others
Modelling: observing, indentifying with and copying the behavior of a role model
Role Model: a person who is looked up to and copied
Identification: a feeling of similarity with a role model that leads to the imitation of the behavior - we believe we can be like them
Vicarious Reinforcement: learning through the positive consequences of other people's action rather than firsthand- we are more likely to copy someone if they are rewarded.
Social Learning Theory
Children learn trough watching others, we often demonstrate the skill first, the child remembers and copies the action and the performs it itself, this is observational learning.
Modelling is the act of copying an observed behavior.
Observational learning can take place without modelling, it involves four steps:
ATTENTION: paying attention to the person being observed
MEMORY: being able to remember what we have seen until it is needed
REPRODUCTION: being able to act out what we have seen (modelling)
MOTIVATION: the incentive to copy what has been seen
Role models are people we observe and learn from, they can be anyone, a hero, sporting person, celebrity, teacher or parent. They may be a role model because you have something in common with them.
We are most likely to model someone who is popular, attractive, the same age or same gender. Identification is when we adopt behaviors, attitudes an beliefs of the role model.
We are more likely to imitate someone if there is a reward involved, vicarious learning's when we learn from the fortunes and misfortunes of others.
Evaluating SLT as an explanation of aggression
- Bandura's study supports slt because he found children do copy aggression
- Many tragedies, such as shootings have been linked to TV and video game violence
- Could be that aggressive children watch aggression on TV and play video games rather then being affected by them, they could be naturally aggressive
- many children watch violence but not all copy it
- watching violent TV and video games can actually lower aggression as it acts as a release for natural aggression
- it is difficult to study observational learning because modelling may take place a long time after it has been observed.
Comparing theories of aggression
Biological approch sees aggression as somerhing that comes from within us, whereas sl says we learn aggression.
DIFFICULTIES WITH EACH THEORY
both are difficult to study
observational ledarnign may not lead to modelling or it might be modelled at a later date
both study the brain and hormones however both are difficult or unethical
no direct evidence that testosterone or the amygdala cause aggression
niether theory takes into accountg of differneces between individuals
both have been criticised because the reverse if each theory might be true
It is an ongoing discussion about whether our behavior is caused by our biology(nature) or the enviroment we have been brought up in (nurture).
Biological side, say we behave is determined by how our brain and hormones dunction.
Environmental side, our upbring, the people we learn from and the experiences we have.
it does seem sensible to explain aggression ion terms of a combination of both.
Maybe biologically aggressive children seek out violent TV and video games and then copy what they see. This means both theories are true and both contribute to aggression in children.
Nature - biological - limbic system, amygdala, testosterone
Nurture - social learning - observational learning, modelling, identification, vicarious reinforcement