psychology topic c: agression

  • Created by: crajan
  • Created on: 01-06-18 17:39

The Amygdala

The Amygdala:

The amygdala is a brain structure that recognises emotion and forms an emotional response. 

Strengths: Supported by the case study of Charles Whitman and King (1961) link the amygdala to aggressive behaviour. 

Weaknesses: Case studies are unreliable as the reason for the individual's aggression may be unique to that indiviual. 

1 of 11

The Limbic System

The Limbic System:

The limbic system is responsible for producing emotions needed for survival such as fear or aggression. People with emotional disorders have been shown to have damage to the limbic system. 

2 of 11



Testosterone, the male sex hormone, has been suggested to affect aggression as in almost all cultures, men are more aggressive than women. It's been found that castrating a male animal reduces levels of aggression but if the animal was to then be injected with testosterone, their aggresssion levels would be restored. 

Strengths: In animals, there is a clear cause-and-effect relationship between aggression and testosterone. Human studies have similar results in correlation studies. 

Weaknesses: It cannot explain why some females are more aggressive than males. For humans, the relationship between the two are correlational, not cause-and-effect meaning there could be other factors that impact the aggression of an individual.

3 of 11

Evaluation of Biological Explanations


  • Animal studies that have involved damage or removal of the amygdala offer evidence for its link to aggression
  • The case study of Charles Whitman and case of King (1961) provide evidence for the brains link with aggression in humans
  • In animals, there is a clear cause-and-effect relationship between testosterone and aggression 
  • Human studies show a relationship in correlation studies


  • Animals and humans are different in many ways, so animal research suggesting a link between the brain and aggression may not be applicable to humans
  • Case studies are unreliable, as the reason for an individual's aggression may be unique to that individual
  • Aggression could be equally explained by the way children copy the media suggested by the SLT
  • Not all humans with high testosterone levels are aggressive. Some have greater sporting ability or are driven in their careers. Testosterone creates a drive, but this need not be a violent one. 
4 of 11

The Social Learning Theory

The Social learning theory (SLT) states that behaviour can be learned from the the environment through the process of observational learning. Children may imitate the aggressive behaviour that they have observed.  Those that are observed are known as role models. Role models are chosen through the process of identification - this means children look up to people that are similar to them, perhaps in terms of age or sex. We have an incentive to learn through vicarious learning - learning through other people's rewards or punishments. 


  • The study is supported with evdence from Bandura's Bobo doll studies. He found that children do copy aggression. They were more likley to copy an adult attacking a large inflatabe doll if the adult was rewarded for it. If the adult was punsihed, that child would be less likely to copy.
  • There are many real life aggressive incidents that have been linked to TV and video games such as the Columbine massacre. 


  • Many children watch violence but not all children copy it. It could be that aggressive children are naturally aggressive.
  • Bandura's study was a laboratory experiment, this means it may not be accurate to real life. 
5 of 11

Comparing Theories of Aggression


  • Both theories are difficult to study - we cannot open people's brains to investiagte their amygdala nor can we test the effects of observational learning over a long period of time (especially with aggression as there is no guarantee that the learned behaviour is temporary, this is unethical)
  • Both theories are similar because they have strengths and weaknesses


  • The biological theory sees aggression as something that can be attributed to our biological makeup, something we are born with whilst the social learning theory believes that we learn aggression from the people around us
  • The SLT says we are motivated to be aggressive through vicarious learning whereas the biological theory says that we are driven to be aggressive through levels of testosterone in our body or due to damage to our amygdala 

Aggressive behaviour is probably caused by a combination of them both. 

6 of 11

Content Analysis

Content analysis is a research method used to measure the number of times something appears in a chosen media form. 

To carry this out:

First a list of behaviours must be compiled that the experimenter deems to be aggressive. Then he must identify these things in the game and tally in a tally chart every time these behaviours are seen. The experimenter can check their analysis by repeating the experiment later or by having someone else repeat the experiment with the list and see if they identify the same things as the experimenter. They can analyse their data by using averages or a graph to establish the greatest type of aggression in the video game or how high the aggression is overall.

Sampling refers to finding a sample and the quality of that sample. This means there may be issues with your sample in terms of size or generalisabilty.  

Behavioural categories are used in content analysis. They must be observable and measurable to qualify for the list used in the content analysis. 

7 of 11

Ethical Issues

Protection of participants refers to the need to look after the rights and welfare of participants to ensure no physical or psychological damage is caused.

Ethical issues:

  • informed consent
  • right to withdraw
  • deception
  • competence

Ways to avoid ethical issues:

  • debriefing 
  • clarifying the right to withdraw
8 of 11

Educational Psychology

Who might they work for?  The local authority (responsible for the school), an independent (fee-paying) school or themselves if they are self-employed.

What do they do? They may carry out assessments of children with special needs. They may also be needed in a consultation or referral as to what help a child needs. Additionally, they may need to plan interventions based on their observations of a child. 

What skills are required? They must be an empathic listener, have good communication skills with both children and adults and speak with people comfortably. 

What qualifications are required? First, you need a BPS recognised degree in Psychology. You also need some experience that involves education. Then, you have to do a three-year doctorate in educational psychology. 

Chartered status? Most psychologists who work on a self-employed basis are chartered, as being in the Directory of Chartered Psychologists is a sig of competence that can help them gain business. 

9 of 11

Anger Management

  • First, the EP will undertake observations. They may go into a classroom and watch the child to try and identify what triggers such behaviour. The teacher will also be asked to observe and keep records of things such as the time of day or lesson as well as if there is anything that indicates to the teacher that it may be a bad day for the student. The aim of observation is to identify these triggers so they can be dealt with to combat the anger. 
  • Next, the EP has to gather information from other sources about what happens in not only the classroom but also whether this behaviour is consistent at home. To do so, the EP will talk to the relevant parent or guardian about the issue. Sometimes, the EP may even carry out more observations at the child's home. Again, these things are done to try and establish triggers in the childs behaviour but also to see if the behaviour matches anyone in the family, to try and infer patterns.
  • The EP will also talk to the child to see if they can identify what makes them angry. 
  • Following this gathering of information and identification of triggers, the EP may devise an intervention, typically including relaxation techniques such as breathing methods, counting to ten or meditation. 
  • If the EP feels this cannot be advised, they may refer the student elsewhere. 
10 of 11


Censorship is the way information is prevented from being seen or circulating. 

Types of censorship:

  • military censorship
  • moral censorship
  • political censorship

Governments that are authoritarian are more likely to want censorship because they want to control what their people see to protect their own power whereas paternalistic style governments will assume what their citizens want them to see and not show them anything else to protect the people

A watershed describes the turning point at which certain levels of violent and/or sexual behaviour can be shown on TV. This is 9pm in the UK. The role of the watershed is to prevents children from viewing unsuitable material.

Censorship is believed to be effective as most adults and children agree with it. This backs up the idea that censorship and watershed are there is response to society to protect society. However, as there seem to be fewer violent and sexual act on British TV, the watershed may not be needed.

11 of 11


No comments have yet been made

Similar Psychology resources:

See all Psychology resources »See all Aggression resources »