Aggression

Aggression is a critical part of animal existence, which is an inherent driving force to humans, as we, too, are animals. The source of aggression within humans is a long summative list, but before trying to understand its source one must apply a working definition of aggression. Aggressive behavior is defined by Encyclopedia Britannica as any action of an animal that serves to injure an opponent or prey animal or to cause an opponent to retreat. (7) David G. Myers states that aggression is any physical or verbal behavior intended to hurt or destroy.(9) There are many types of aggressive behaviors, which can be differentiated from the factual act to the hidden motives. For example, an aggressive behavior can be negative or positive, accidental or intended, and physical or mental. Aggression can take numerous forms, the act of hitting a wall to release aggression has some of the same roots as playing football and enjoying hitting the quarterback. A child yelling at his parents could be equated, in its aggressiveness, with hitting one’s horn when one is cut off on 495.
Aggression is also a relative construct. What might seem like a terribly aggressive act to one person, most often the victim, might seem like an induced response to the perpetrator.(3) Psychologist Arlene Stillwell performed an experiment where she assigned ordinary college students at random to play the role of a victim or a perpetrator in a small incident. Then she asked the students to describe the situation that had just transpired. What she found was that both victims and perpetrators deformed the truth equally to present their sides in a better light. Victims would dwell on their lasting traumas from the incident while the perpetrator might make the act seem like a one-time action provoked by insurmountable circumstances. The resulting implication is that aggression is in the eye of the beholder.(3) Due to its relative nature aggression is extremely hard to isolate and study. Some acts are very easy to categorize as aggressive, a first degree murder or first degree rape, but is negligent manslaughter aggressive? The mere act of not shoveling one’s sidewalk might have the same effect as a cold-blooded murder but is it an aggressive act? For the purposes of this paper aggression will be related to the four conditions presented by Gerda Siann. They are as follows; 1. The person carrying out that behavior, the aggressor, does so with intention. 2. The behavior is taking place within an interpersonal situation which is characterized by an accumulated distress or a opposition. 3. The aggressor intends by the behavior in question to gain a greater advantage than the person on the other side of the aggression. 4. The aggressor carrying out the behavior has either provoked the situation or moved the conflict unto a higher degree of strength.(11) Aggression has numerous reasons and consequences both must be analyzed in order to see from whence it arises. An explicit example of the strength of both nature and nurture concerning aggression is the life of Kody Scott, a young gang member of California. He was already a gang member in middle school, and would not have been had the gang not already been in place when he graduated from elementary school – thus environment’s role in aggressive behavior, but one fateful day when he stole a car to get to the hospital for the birth of his first child, he intentionally detoured through the neighborhood of a rival gang and killed a rival gang member. The detour he deliberately took was a conscious decision and not provoked by the environment – hence nature’s toll on his aggressive act.(3)
Aggression is usually associated with negative aspects of the world.(3) This is not necessarily true, though. Negativity is but half of the nature of aggression. Aggression can have very positive results. For example, a non-aggressive hockey player gets thrown around and will therefore not perform very well in an bellicose sport. On the other hand an aggressive player will not allow himself to be thrown around like the aforementioned player and will most likely win the small battles just based on the mentality of the player.(5) Another example of positive aspects of aggression might be a person’s sexual aggressiveness might allow them to obtain a