Aggression: Origins, Theories & Differences

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  • 0:23 Aggression vs Assertiviness
  • 0:47 Dmitri Belyaev
  • 1:40 Frustration-Aggession…
  • 2:10 Social Learning
  • 2:34 Self-Esteem
  • 3:00 Gender Differences
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Polly Peterson
What roles do nature and nurture play in aggressive tendencies? You'll explore origins of aggression and how acceptance of this behavior may differ among societies.

Are some people 'natural born killers'? Can aggressive behavior be triggered by external factors? Or is it a learned behavior that's modeled by others?

First of all, aggression shouldn't be confused with assertiveness. Aggression is violence against someone or something with intent to harm.

Origins of Aggression

  1. Biological explanations for aggressive behavior have been proposed, including genetic predisposition or high testosterone levels.

Frontal lobe damage has been linked to the inability to control aggression
Frontal Lobe Damage

In 1959, Russian geneticist Dmitri Belyaev conducted an experiment to determine whether selective breeding could result in a tamer species of silver fox. Over a period of just ten years, Belyaev was able to domesticate the foxes by breeding only the nice, friendly foxes and turning the unfriendly ones into fur coats. Now, after 50 years of selectively breeding 35 generations of foxes, the experiment has shown that aggression is, in part, genetic.

Other biological reasons might lead to aggressive behavior. For example, an examination of prisoners of violent crimes has linked frontal lobe damage and an inability to control aggression.

  1. What about external instigators of aggression? Can someone who is genetically docile be provoked to fight? According to the frustration-aggression hypothesis developed by psychologist John Dollard, frustration can lead to aggression when a desired goal isn't reached. Have you ever become angry when, after waiting a long time for a software program to download, your Internet connection fails? Did you pound the desk in frustration? You've demonstrated that frustration can lead to aggression.
  2. Aggression may also be a response picked up by watching others through a process known as social learning. Will the child of a physically or verbally abusive parent grow up to be abusive themselves? Such a background increases the likelihood. Some studies have demonstrated that exposure to violence in video games, movies or TV shows can make us more aggressive and desensitize us to combative behavior.
  3. How does self-esteem factor into aggression? Bullies who have inflated egos can become aggressive when they feel that others are threatening their image or to increase their group status. Conversely, social outcasts who repeatedly experience rejection may act in a hostile, defensive way towards others.

Both high and low self-esteem can play a part in aggressive behavior
Self Esteem Factors

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