Theories of Aggression

Essay by cyberelevationUniversity, Bachelor'sB+, April 2006

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Aggression is an ordeal that affects all human beings. Leonard Berkowitz defines aggression as "behaviour carried out with the intention to harm someone. In its extreme form, aggression is a deliberate attempt to do serious injury as in violence" (Berkowitz). This is a good generalization of the term. However, it is very limited and doesn't emphasize the various alternative theories of aggression. These include the ethological approach, the frustration-aggression hypothesis, the social learning theory, and the social-cognitive perspective. In this paper, I will outline the basics of each theory and proceed to list pros and cons for each. This will allow the reader to distinguish the theories and therefore have a better understanding of what causes aggressive behaviour.

Growing evidence supports the claim that ethological factors predispose some people toward aggression. Ethology is "the comparative study of the biological bases of animal and human behaviour" (Parke and Slaby).

It argues that behaviour evolved for survival and reproductive purposes. Famous ethologist Konrad Lorenz sees aggression as an instinctual system. He describes it as an innate urge that is triggered by specific environmental stimuli. Lorenz outlines three primary species-preserving functions that lead to aggression in animals. The first is the ecological function, which allows a man to fight for his territory. The second is the intraspecific combat function which leads to the theory of natural selection. The last function is brood defence, which says the species that can best protect their youth will survive over the long term. Behavioural scientists have criticized mainly three aspects of Lorenz's work. First is his dependence on animal instincts and his negligence of the process of social learning. It has been proven that learned behaviour takes precedence in a situation of aggression. Next, Lorenz's theory revolves around his use of an energy model of...