What Causes Aggression? Is It an ‘Instinct’ or a ‘Learned Behaviour’?

1710 words 7 pages
What causes aggression? Is it an ‘instinct’ or a ‘learned behaviour’?
(a) Compare and contrast the views of any two psychological domains on the causes of aggression.
(b) Evaluate the validity of their claims in the order to reach an informed decision about the causes of aggression.

In order to explore the causes of aggressive behaviour, we have to be clear about what we mean by aggressive behaviour. The psychological definitions of aggression are determined by theoretical perspectives and there is no consensus within or across the sciences about its components. For example some researchers support that aggression is an inborn, instinctive process based on which we intend to harm others. Such approaches adopt a definition that places
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This incorporates the concept that aggression might actually be the automatic response of an individual that gets frustrated. Frustration can be defined as the blocking of a goal-orientated response and they viewed this to be the sole cause of aggression. They believed that whenever an individual tries to achieve a goal, environmental conditions block our activity and hence the individual experiences frustration and this can elicit aggressive behaviours. This concept represents the backbone of the approach as it indicates the environment affects the behaviour and the individual is seen as responding to external events. The aggressive energy need not explode directly against its source. Their theory suggests that people learn to inhibit direct retaliation, especially when others might disapprove or punish; instead we displace our hostilities to safer targets. Displacement occurs in the old anecdote about a man who, humiliated by his boss, berates his wife, who yells at their son, who kicks the dog, which bites the postman.

It is clear though, not every frustration leads to an aggressive response. Therefore the earlier proposition of a deterministic relationship between frustration and aggression was altered into a probabilistic version by Miller in 1941. Moderating variables may also explain why aggression is frequently displaced away from the frustrator onto more easily accessible or less intimidating target. Marcus-Newhall, Pederson, Carlson and


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