Discuss the various theoretical perspectives on Aggression, including the research supporting and refuting these perspectives.

Essay by gal_213University, Bachelor'sB+, October 2006

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"Through centuries of experience, humans learned that aggressive behaviour enabled them to obtain material goods, land, and treasures; to protect property and family; and to gain prestige, status, and power." (Bartol & Bartol 2004, P.237) Some writers argue that aggression has been involved in helping people survive, however, it is undeniable that it is the fundamental component in violent crime. In other words, aggressive behaviour is at the root of various social and individual problems.

In this essay, we will explore a number of issues: What are the different forms of human aggression? Why do human beings frequently engage in dangerous acts of aggression? Are these acts of aggression learned, elicited, and biological or some combination of these characteristics? Are there any critiques of these approaches? If yes, what are they?

Defining Aggression

Psychology traditionally has defined aggression as behaviour against another that intentionally inflicts harm. Such behaviour can be in the form of physical attack against one another, or verbal abuse, such as spreading malicious gossip.

Although this definition seems adequate for many applications, it is not precise enough for the comprehensive understanding of aggressive behaviour.

Feshbach first portrays two distinct types of aggression, hostile and instrumental. They are distinguished by their goals, or rewards they offer the perpetrator. Hostile aggression is driven by anger (e.g. real or perceived insults, physical attacks or one's own failure) and performed as an end in itself. The goal of the aggressor is to make a victim suffer. Most criminal homicides, rapes and other violent crimes directed at harming the victim are precipitated by hostile aggression.

In contrast, instrumental aggression is driven by the desire or competition for rewards, which can be object or status, possessed by another person (e.g. jewelry, money, territory). This may also be motivated by non-injurious goals, such...