Institutional Aggression

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  • Created by: ava.scott
  • Created on: 14-11-14 14:13

AO1: The importation model

The importation model

  • Violence is not a product of the institution
  • Inmates have a predisposition for violence
  • These personal characteristics are imported into the prison
  • Violence is a product of individual characteristics of the inmates
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Importation Model: supporting evidence

Irwin and Cressey found that

  • younger inmates are more aggressive
  • Impoverish backgrounds can lead to aggression
  • People from varying ethnic background will have varying levels of aggression, probably due to differences in socio economic background.

Keller and Wang reported that prisons with the most troublesome inmates has the most violence. Maximum security prisons are considered very dangerous, and a high level of violence is often reported.

Studies of 4 juvenile institutions found that pre-institutional aggression was the best indicator for insitutional aggression,  regardless of the specific features of the insistution.

STATS: 26% of men and 19% of women are in prison because of violence, so 1/4 of prisoners have a history of aggression.

41% of men and 30% of women in prison were excluded from school suggesting behavioural issues before insititutionisation.

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Importation Model: Limits

1) Suggest no practical applications

2) A study in 800 violent gang members showed they were no more or less likely to be violent once inside prison, when taking previous crimes into account. This suggests that previous characteristics of inmates has npo effect on their aggression levels inside prison. large pop validity.

3) Other theories offer many more practical applications e.g. the deprivation mdoel. If we enhance prisons features, there may be less violence. The managerial model; improving training and proffessionalism can reduce violence.

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The Deprivation Model

Deprivation model

  • Imprisonment deprives inmates of freedom, relationships, comfort, privacy etc
  • This deprivation leads to stress and frustration
  • frustration leads to aggression and violence towards inmates and staff.
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The Managerial Model

The managerial model

  • The decisions made by prison managers can effect aggression.
  • Innappropriate security measures, improper classification of prisoners, poor training and proffessionalism can increase number of assaults in prisons.
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Importation Model: Wider Evaluation


Its a very negative approach with few solutions. However, puts greater emphasis on the individual to change and improve their behaviour. This could be too much pressure, causing frustration and further violence.

This is bad for the model because it is not useful or beneficial to us, and does not help problems we have within institutions.


Does the deprivation moel or the managerial moel provide a better, less stigmatising model? They offer more practical applications.

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Importation Model:IDA

IDA: Socially sensitive

The importation model has a very negative view on criminals, and this could lead to stereotyping and labelling people as a certain 'type' of person.  This could lead to people fulfilling the stereotype and encouraging aggression in institutions. It could also lead to reduced integration back into society after leaving an instution. Ex inmates could become frustrated and even more violent.

This is bad for the theory because the social implications of its assumptions are negative; for the inmates and for institutions, without giving any constructive ideas to improve the situation.

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AO1: The Power of Situation and Dehumanising label


  • Zimbardo says the situation people find themselves in exerts influence on whether they are aggressive or not.
  • Usually mild mannered people may be aggressive in certain situations.
  • The situation, not individual disposition, that is the root of aggression.
  • Institutional factors such as external constraints and peer pressure increase people's willingness to cause harm.

Dehumanising labels:

  • Individuals are more likely to be aggressive to others when they label or dehumanise them in some way.
  • If someone is labelled a derogatory term, this makes them more likely to be the taregt of aggression.
  • Similarily, if someone is labelled a number, this depersonalises them and makes them a more likely target of aggression.
  • In some institutions, labelling is used a lot, and this could increase aggression levels.
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Evidence of The Power of Situation and Labels:Zimb


  • 22 male particpants were randomly allocated  to prisoner or guard condition.
  • All good mental health and no history of aggression.
  • Particpants were installed in a mock prison.
  • Prisoners had smocks to wear and numbers to be identified by.
  • Th guards began to be aggressive and controlling of the prisoners, and even made arbitrary demands like cleaning toilets with their hands.
  • The prisoners retaliated at first and then accepted their role.
  • The guards later attributed their behaviour to the demands of the situation and the role they were given.

Supports the dehumanising labels and power of the situtaion theory, as the particpants had no previous history of aggression, but the situation made them aggressive.

However, the guards were more violent than prisoners, who were mainly passive. This isn't shown in reallife.

Also- the deprivation model, as the lack of control, stimulation and comfort could have lead the participants to be more aggressive.

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Evidence for The Power of the situation and labels


Told participants, who were students, they were working on a group task with another school.

  • One condition heard an assistant refer to the students as 'animals'.
  • And one condition heard them referred to as 'nice'.
  • When later asked to deliver electric shocks to the other students, those who had heard 'animals' develivered higher shocks, than the 'nice' condition.


Supports dehumanising labels as the labels given to the students were either derogatory or kind. This created a perception of the other students in the participants brain, which lead to them delivering higher or lower shocks, a measure of their aggression. The worse label lead to more aggression.

Also- the managerial model, as the improper classification of the other students lead to their ill treatment.

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Power and Labels Research evaluation

Zimbardo and Bandura

  • Low population validity- only 22 year american men, and students in Bandura. Other cultures may react differently to the situation.The participants are not criminals, and so conclusions cannot drawn from these particpants to institutions.
  • ZIMBARDO: Low repeats- the study was deemed unethical and so was not repeated. This means the results are not reliable.
  • Artificial settings- Zimbardo didnt use a real prison, and the Bandura's use of electrical shocks isn't an everday way people show aggrerssion. Results may have been different in a real prison.
  • ZIMBARDO: Demand charatceristics may have played a role- as the guards felt they should be controlling and aggressive. >>>
  • This could be down to SOCIAL LEARNING THEORY. Guards pre-concieved ideas of what their role entailed. Therefore, it isn't just the power of the situtaion, and the resulst are not valid.
  • Unethical! The prisoners were very poorly treated, and all articipants may be shocked by how they reacted to their role within the experiment.
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Power of the Situation and Labels: IDA

IDA: Unethical

The research by Zimbardo was unethical as it subjected people to unnesccesary pain and torment. The particpants may have been damaged emotionally and psychologically

IDA: Socially Sensitive/determinist

The theory says that aggression will always occur in instuitutions, no matter who you are.The theory puts the blame on the situation and not the individual. This could be damaging to society, as people won't take responsibility for their actions. This could lead to people getting away with awful things.

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Power of the situation + labels: Wider Eval

Practical Applications:

There are many practical applications from this research.

  • Allowing prsioners to wear their own clothes, and their names used instead of numbers could identify and humanise them , resulting in less aggression.
  • Making the situation feel less pressurised or isolated may reduces aggression; this could be done with TV's, visitors and counselling services.


  • The research is not representative of all people, so we cannot fully justify the theory.
  • The resarch is unethical and so this gives the theory bad connotations.
  • Social learning theory could say that the preconceived ideas of what prisoners and guards should behave like, resulting in this behvaiour being displayed when in the institution.
  • Reduces blame and responsibility, and some people may say this will result in a irresponsible and blameless society.
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