Why Are Individual Aggressive?


Aggression is difficult to define, it is a complex phenomenon, and depending
upon the context the term can be made to carry either positive or negative
connotations, it can be attacking behaviour that may be either
self-protective and self-assertive or to the infliction of injury toward
oneself or toward others, to the total destruction of others. Is aggression
biological determined or the product of learning and environmental
influences.? This essay, will consider instinctive theory, the frustration -
aggression hypothesis, and social learning theory. It should then be
possible to draw a conclusion to see if any or all of the theories discussed
are the cause of aggression. Brain disorders, hormonal and chemical
imbalances, environmental factors, such as heat, noise, air pollution and
overcrowding, although contribute to the causes of aggression will not be
discussed during the course of this essay. No universally adopted definition
of aggression exists, for the purpose of this discussion, the definition of
Gross will be used.

Gross defines aggression as :-
"The intentional infliction of some form of harm on others" (Gross page 444)

Freud proposed that aggression is an instinctive biological urge. According
to Freud this instinct, is made up of the libido (pleasure) and "Thanatos"
(the death wish) (pain). This basic instinct is present in the Id from
birth, at first the aggression is relatively uncontrolled, but with the
development of the Ego and superego it becomes channelled into socially
acceptable behaviour If these impulses are not released periodically in safe
ways, they soon reach dangerous levels capable of producing acts of
violence. Sometimes it is released in the form of physical or verbal abuse
against another, (where the anger is displaced onto another). Sometimes the
aggressive impulse is turned inward and produces self - punishment action,
even suicide. The best that can be hoped for, according to Freud, is that
aggressive impulses will be "channelled into socially acceptable forms."
such as football, sport etc. (Bernstein et al page 715). However, this
theory does not explain why some people are aggressive and others are not,
and if aggression is dissipated into sport, why is there football violence
and violence at other sporting events?

Lorenz, like Freud believed that aggressive energy builds up in the
individual, and eventually has to be discharged in some way. Lorenz\'s states
that aggression is the "fighting instinct" in man, and that man is naturally
aggressive. This instinct developed during the course of evolution because
it yielded many benefits, for example, fighting serves to disperse
populations over a wide area, ensuring maximum use of resources. "Such
behaviour often helps to strengthen genetic make-up of a species by assuring
that only the strongest individuals manage to reproduce", ( Baron/Byrne page
328) This fighting instinct is both present in man and animals, and that
aggression in animals is do with \'Ritualization and appeasement\' and through
these rituals and series of appeasements animals avoid destroying each
other, but aggression in humans, is \'no longer under the control of rituals,
and it has become distorted in man" (Gross page 445). However nearly all the
evidence of Lorenz\'s theory comes from research with animals, and many
psychologist "doubt whether the results apply to humans, because in the
animal world instinct plays a more significant role than with humans". (
Berstein et al page 716). Further It is generally agreed by looking at
present day Eskimos, Pygmies, and Aborigines, that man is a \'hunter -
gatherer\'. and that there is a powerful human tendency to cooperate which is
a legacy from our ancient hunting past, when we had to co-operate or starve.
People then lived in small tribal groups, were warfare did not exists, there
were no armies, and if conflict did occur, from time to time, casualties
would be avoided or limited. Mead argues that man is "not naturally
aggressive" and points out many societies, such as the Apraesh of New Guinea
where \'aggression is rare, and "peaceful coexistence and cooperation is the
norm" (Bernstein page 715) Megargee (1966) , supported the theories of Freud
and Lorenz, Megargee reported that studies of "people who commit brutal
aggressive crimes, are often over-controlled individuals, who repress the
anger and over a period of time the pressure to be aggressive builds up".
(Gross page 450). Support for instinct theory