Institutional Aggression

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The importation Model

AGGRESSION WITH GROUPS - Irwin and Cressey: 

Prisoners bring their own social traits with them into prison. These people then influence the behaviour of the prision. Thier behaviour is developed outside of the prison and is 'imported' inside. 


  • Some research support: As seen in the study by Harer and Steffenmier who studied 58 US prisons, with a focus on violence
  • Findings: black inmates showed high levels of violence. White inmates showed high levels of alcohol and drug related misconduct in prisions. 
  • These differences reflect the statistical differences found in US society generally, thus suggesting that they were IMPORTED into the prison environment.
  • INDIVIDUAL DIFFERENCES: not all balck/white people can be classed as this 
  • CULTURAL DIFFERENCES: Studies only done in the US so cannot generalise other countires.
  • GENDER BIAS: Research only done on males so cannot be generalised to all genders. 
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The Deprivation Model

AGGRESSION WITHIN GROUPS - Instituational aggression is affected by SITUATIONAL FACTORS:

  • Prisoner or patient aggression is the product of the stressful and oppressive conditions in the institute e.g. overcrowding, physical conditions of heat and noise and lack of mentally stimulation. 

Sykes descrided the specific deprivations within prisons that may be linked to an increase in aggression e.g. 

  • Loss of Liberty
  • Loss of autonomy 
  • Loss of sercurity 

Inmates cope with this in several ways including violence against staff. 

AO2 - Evidence to support: McCorkle et al found that overcrowing, lack of privacy and a lack of meaningful activity all increased interpersonal violence in prisons. Supporting the view that aggression was a direct consequence of situational factors that deprived prisoners of normal living conditions

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Dehumanisation and Genocide


  • Although humans normally have social norms about killing others this changes if the target group is dehumanised. Members may be seen as worthless animals and it is easier to kill them

AO2: Support for this explanation - There is historical evidence for the power of dehumanisation to influence mass violence against specific groups in society. For example the actions of Nazis against the Jews during the Holocaust, where Nazi progaganada referred to Jews as the 'Jewish disease' (dehumanising them) This shows how killing was made easier by dehumanising of victims. 


  • Acts committed with intent to destory in whole or in part, a national, ethical, racial or religious group. 
  • Staub claims genocide is more likely if a less powerful group within society is scrapegoated for social problems experienced by others. 
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Obedience to authority


Milgram believed that the Holocaust was primarily the result of the situational pressures that forced Nazi soliders to obey their leaders regardless of any personal moral objections.


Mandell rejects the role of obedience to authority claim by Milgram. As it does not sufficiently exlpain the behaviour of Nazis towards Jews during the Holocaust. He argues that Milgram's accounts ignores other and is not supported by real-life events. 

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IDA - Real world application

S: An example of a real world application of this Theory is increased aggression towards asylum seekers and refugees.

E: Esses et al showed that people in SDO have a tendancy to dehumanise outgroup members. They are also more susceptible to negative media depictions which portray asylum seekers as deserving of hostility

E: This supports the fact that dehumanisation can lead to aggression between groups and the goverment could take steps to change these negative viewpoints held by certain sections of society through media compaigns for example. 

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IDA - Reductionist View Point

S: Real - world application of the deprivation model. 

E: Most violence occurs in environments that are hot, noise polluted and overcrowded. Wilson showed that changes to such deprived environments e.g. reduced noise etc resultedin a dramatic decrease in violent conduct among inmates at HMP Woodhill.

E: Therefore this shows that by using the deprivation model in real life situations can help reduce aggression within groups. Thus improving institutions aggressive behaviour towards each other and towards staff.  

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