Frustration-Aggression Theory: Definition & Principle

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  • 0:00 Frustration-Aggression Theory
  • 1:52 Frustration-Aggression…
  • 3:01 Berkowitz's Revision
  • 3:57 Displacement
  • 4:49 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Karin Gonzalez

Karin has taught middle and high school Health and has a master's degree in social work.

What is a feeling that can cause aggression and violence? Frustration. In this lesson, we'll focus on the feeling of frustration and how it can lead to aggressive tendencies. With the help of examples, you'll learn about the frustration-aggression theory and its revisions.

Frustration-Aggression Theory

You're hurriedly typing up a research paper in your school library that's due in thirty minutes. You're panicked and stressed that you won't finish it in time. When you finish 10 minutes before your class starts, a sense of relief overcomes you. You click 'print' and wait by the printer while giving yourself a mental high five. Yet, the printer, the only one in the library, beeps, signaling a malfunction. It seems there is a major paper jam. A feeling of extreme frustration overcomes you.

Frustration is the feeling of irritation and annoyance when something blocks you from achieving a goal. In the previous scenario, your goal of turning in your research paper on time is being hindered by the printer's malfunction. You throw your backpack down in exasperation and proceed to kick it several times. This is an example of frustration turning into aggression. Aggression is a malicious behavior or attitude towards someone or something, usually triggered by frustration.

As noted in the definition of aggression, frustration doesn't have to be a behavior. It can be an attitude. For example, a dog that is trying to protect its family's home may feel threatened by the mailperson and will bark fiercely whenever he or she comes around. This is aggression in the form of an attitude or outlook. The dog's bark is malicious in its desires to hurt the mailperson if he or she comes any closer.

Now that we have the definitions of frustration and aggression down pat, the definition of the frustration-aggression theory may seem obvious. The frustration-aggression theory largely implies that aggression is often a result of frustration. This theory was proposed by psychologists Dollard, Doob, Miller, Mower, and Sears in their 1939 book Frustration and Aggression.

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