Aggression And Its Intricacies

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 v 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
v 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 date to prom without any problem, whereas anyone
much less aggressive person would be passive and wait for the person to approach
them. One good aspects of aggressiveness might be ambitiousness or
assertiveness, an aggressive person is more likely to get what they need done as
opposed to the inactive person. Outgoing, a socially positive trait is nothing
more than aggressiveness personified. A female high school senior might be more
successful and be rewarded (by being voted for Best Personality in the MOCK
awards) for being socially aggressive v outgoing. Aggression can also be
characterized by mentality. Where one hurts someone out of rage or whether one
thinks of numerous ways of hurting someone, aggression still is present in both
situations. The thoughts of a people, for example the Germans in World War Two
can be just as aggressive as the act as the systematic murder of the Jewish
community.(8) Aggression in this case was an extreme example of a spiraling
staircase. The Nazi party did not begin a process of systematic murder at the
beginning of their rule, first they instituted a hate as scapegoats toward the
Jews, they then removed some luxuries that the Jews had, then they removed
citizenship, followed by imprisonment, then to slave labor, and lastly the
“Final Solution” was implemented. The thoughts of hatred at the
beginning of the platform was just as dangerous and aggressive as the gas
chambers of late WWII. These aggressive feelings allowed the Germans to
desensitize each other to a point of genocide.(11) By solely disliking someone
they looked the other way when the book burning began, then it was just a small
step to the first pogrom, then they just accepted the de-humanization of Jews,
and this was followed by an escalating progress which led eventually to the
inhumane murder of close to six million human lives. Along with these pure
feelings of anger and hatred vaggression?the Germans also tried to
scapegoat and thereby provide catharsis for themselves by blaming the downfall
of their troubles on the Jewish community. This displacement somehow released
pent up rage that had been present for numerous years of misery for the
Germans.(3, Handler) Thus thoughts also cause aggression or are manifestations
of the pure aggression. The most obvious example of aggression is killing, for
that reason the example for this paper will be the untimely death of people as
caused by others. From very young ages death permeates into all of our lives.

From having a loved grandparents passing away to the learning how to read the
newspaper and reading about terrible deaths daily, if not more often. One strong
argument supports that people have built-in aggression. Much like the theories
of Freud, that people have instinctual aggression, whether sexual or violent, a
multitude of scientists and psychologists believe that biology is crucial in the
development of aggression.(9) For example aggression has been correlated
numerous times in a significant way with testosterone.(1) One psychologist, Jack
Hokanson, has tracked catharsis theories for a number of years. One experiment
performed by this man seemed to point that in order to reduce violence or
aggression men would react angrily, whereas women would react in a friendly
manner when presented with aggressive behaviors.(2) The variable that was tested
here were the differences in the genders which proved to be quite polar, for the
men were belligerent and the women were almost uniformly kind.(12) Differences
in physical strength also have provided for differences in aggression levels
between the two sexes. Since men are physically built stronger than women they
are more likely to become aggressive than are women who are not, in general, as
physically strong. Neurotransmitters seem to play a very important part in the
aggressive nature of mammals. As tested in monkeys, who have matching 99 percent
of their genes with humans, it has been found that hyper-aggressive or
antisocial monkeys have a deficit of the neurotransmitter serotonin. As an
interesting side note the leaders, who have a different type of aggression
vassertion?have higher levels of this same chemical.(1) In this same
study the monkeys seemed to have very predictable heredity patterns, In which
the monkeys were found to easily exhibit the same behavior as the father. This
was also found to be true “in men who have been discharged from the Marines
for excessive violence, as well as in criminals in Finland who committed acts of
wanton violence.”(8) Seratonin has also found to be an inhibiting factor
concerning aggression. A situation or condition that reduces seratonin levels is
among drugs, hypoglycemia. Hypoglycemia is a condition of lowered blood sugar,
certain diets can cause or inhibit the onset of this condition, thus directly
affecting genetically the aggressive behavior of a person.(12) On the topic of
diets an correlation has been found with the corn (a food that decreases the
levels of seratonin in the brain) intake of a country and the homicide rates, an
obviously aggressive marker.(10) Another chemical in the human machine that
causes or has been related to has been the “anger hormone”
vadrenaline and its counterpart noradrenaline. This is inherent in the
flight or fight reflex, in which fighting is usually prepared by a flush of
adrenaline into the system, and anger/aggression are integral parts of it.(12)
Stanley Hall found that anger has numerous different effects on the human body,
depending on the person. Aggression can cause either an increase or a decrease
in heart rate depending on the anger causing stimulus.(12) For example, a
psychologist named Albert F. Ax found that his test subjects were experiencing
the slowing of their hearts because they were concentrating too hard on the
event supposed to turn them aggressive, in the case of his experiment a
mugger.(12) Another study done by a man named Eron in 1987, showed that most
children, who when described by their peers as having high levels of aggression,
are three times as likely to have a criminal conviction by the age of 30 than
those children who were rated as having high levels of pro-social behavior.(10)
That study shows the apparent stability, or lack of change, in the behavior of
people thereby fueling the genetic, or nature, side of the nature versus nurture
war that is currently being fought. Epilepsy has also been affiliated with
aggressive behavior or at least with outbursts of it. A very strong correlation
has been made between the focus of epileptic discharges being in the temporal
lobe of the brain and discharges of violent and aggressive behavior. (1) That
condition can be helped by psychosurgery but is not used as common as possible
because the biological age group who most is affected by this circumstance are
juveniles or violent offenders who are not capable of giving unbiased, informed
consent to irreversible procedures. Furthermore, evidence liking antisocial
conduct?aggression?with abnormal electrical activity in the temporal
lobes. Using a electroencephalogram (EEG) to study these waves of electricity in
the temporal lobe of sufferers of a sociopath complex, psychologists have
surmised that the aggressive personality disorders are related to a delay of
maturation in these areas of the brain, this could be cause by a innumerable
amount of factors like fetal infection, brain trauma, or lack of proper
nutrients in diet.(1) In 1969 a psychologist by the name of Williams used an EEG
on 333 men convicted of crimes and found that out of the 206 men who had a
history of crimes has a disruption, or dysrhythmias, in the temporal lobes.

Following the genetic track of aggression is the undeniable fact that aggressive
behavior also declines sharply with age.(10) Another physiological factor that
might affect the aggressiveness and even violence level of a person is that of
cerebral trauma, especially diseases. These people who exhibit an
“impairment of the control systems of the brain” also have been known
to occasionally suffer from persistent brain immaturity, brain damage, or toxic
impairment of the brain. There has also been presented the single-gene notion
about psychopath or sociopath behavior. Researchers have found that significant
number of prisoners have an extra sex chromosomes, for example an “XXY”
or “XYY”.(12) Their being in jail does not seem to be the root of
their problem but rather it seems to stem from “their low level of
intelligence,” which is inherently a genetically influence aspect,
according to Robert A. Baron.(10) In post-war studies, studies of the most
aggressive of all activities, there have been similarities found with soldier.

For example several senior U.S. Air Force officers have stated that when the Air
Force tried to pre-select fighter pilots after world war two the only common
denominator between their WWII aces was that they had all been involved in
numerous altercations as children. Not as bullies but rather as fighters, the
type of person who would not back down once attacked or hurt. This seemed like a
strange connection between the type of job and a similarity in childhood
activities, because significantly less than a third of school populations engage
in fights on a regular basis. This seems to point at a genetic capacity for
violence and aggression. More informally, Gwynne Dyer has felt, through his
experiences as a soldier, his genes at work as he says; Aggression is certainly
part of our genetic makeup, and necessarily so, but the normal human
being-s quota of aggression will not cause him to kill acquaintances, let
alone wage war against strangers from a different country-.The
overwhelming majority of those who have killed-have done so as soldiers in
war, and we recognize that that has practically nothing to do with the kind of
personal aggression that would endanger us as their fellow citizens. (8) Here a
regular serving soldier spoke with experience of seeing the numerous soldiers
that “derived their greatest satisfaction from male companionship, from
excitement, and from the conquering of physical obstacles.” Those men were
most likely part of the 2 percent of combat soldiers (as noted by Swank and
Marchand-s WWII study) are predisposed to be “aggressive
psychopaths.”(8) Men can be compared to animals concerning this apparent
predisposition to aggression. For example, in most species it is the best
hunter, the best fighter, the most aggressive male who ends up passing on his
genetic data unto a female and thereby an offspring. An offshoot of this
aggressive psychopath, is another genetic predisposition, the presence or apathy
of empathy for others. Life magazine printed in their latest magazine that,
“the heritability of most personality traits is about 50 percent.”(4)
Thus showing the strong predisposition to certain behaviors, namely aggression.

Furthermore, “aggression-is a trait with high heritability.”(4)
As a result of this there has been recent debate in some states, like Minnesota,
who have been trying to obtain a sort of genetic cleansing by not allowing the
“riff-raff” of society to breed. This ethical question shoots back to
days of 19th century anthropologist Francis Galton who also recommended breeding
quotas to weed out the “unfit.”(4) It also sounds much like the
callings of another well-known historical figure from the 1940-s, the
leader of the Third Reich, Adolph Hitler.(Handler) Nurturing also presents a
strong argument for the development of violence and or aggression. Going back to
the situation with Kody Scott, how could he have killed his rival gang member
had he not been there, the environment and the years of spending in a violent
gang helped him make the choice to cold-bloodedly execute the young man.(3) One
of the most heated debates going on today is the conditioning value of movies
and the rest of the media. Do movies really affect us in aggressive ways? The
United States Navy seems to think so, for one of their psychiatrists developed a
“formula” to psychologically enable certain soldiers to become
assassins and this process consists of using violent movies. They do perform
this process in order to desensitize the government paid assassin to murders,
executions, and unfeeling deaths. There appear to be three major types of
conditioning occurring with the media concerning violence. First, there is a
classical conditioning when people sit at home and see detailed, horrible
suffering of people and they are associating this killing and suffering with
their enjoyment, with a big container of pop-corn, with their favorite
soft-drink, and with their friends and company, all things that the person sees
as positive. B.F. Skinner-s operant conditioning comes into play through
interactive video games where there is a reward for killing or destroying
numerous things with no concern for their well-being. Lastly, social learning as
described by Bandura seems to take in mind the numerous role models who people
see nowadays in the movies.(8) For example, in the movie Pulp Fiction, the hero
Butch (Bruce Willis) ends up killing two people and he is glorified at the end
of the movie. He makes up with the person who was chasing him, makes a large
amount of money, survives the two homosexual rapists, and goes off to a paradise
with his girlfriend. There is not much more of a perfect example of someone who
could potentially be seen as a good guy who actually smokes, cheats, kills,
lies, and steals. Children also develop attachments to the type of behavior
exhibited by Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles or Robert Deniro from either
Goodfellas or Heat.(9) Both of these turn into obvious role models for children
and adolescents. Media such as cartoons presents the evil villain as someone who
always has a sadistic desire for destruction of ransom impersonal someone. More
often than not, thought, they are not like “you.” For example, in the
movie Die Hard III Bruce Wilis is the protagonist and Jeremy Irons is the
antagonist. Bruce Wilis, being the good guy, is an all-American type of guy, who
speaks almost perfect New York English. On the other hand the villain, Jeremy
Irons has an accent which sounds as if it were from Germanic Europe (Germany is
a very good stereotypical evil because of its activities in the early 20th
century). This promotes aggression between people of differing descents because
the media presents a view that blatantly states foreign people are enemies.(3)
Movies also tend to give the feeling that the victim will be dehumanized, much
like how in Vietnam soldiers referred to “the enemy” as VC or Charlie,
thus removing any individualistic characteristics from the enemy, it turned to
be just one single, foreign foe.(3,8) This social phenomenon especially holds
true since most criminals and aggressors generally have a below-average
intelligence, thus are more mentally malleable. Leonard Berkowitz found that;
There is a remarkable consistency to these findings. The studies reviewed here
agree in noting that punitive parental disciplinary methods (such as physical
punishment and depriving children of privileges) ten to be associated with a
high level of aggression and other forms of antisocial behavior by the children.

Love-oriented disciplinary methods on the other hand, evidently facilitate the
development of conscience and internalized restraints against socially
disapproved behavior.(12) This is very important in the development of children
for most sexual offenders, whether rapists or child abusers, were often time
abused themselves as a child or adolescent. Punishment inherently increases
resentment and hostility, thus creating an environment where the child does not
care for the parents and all of the associations that can be made with the
parent, like their morals, rules, and respects. Isolation also tends to have a
very strong effect on the mentality of aggression. Usually with a lack of
interpersonal relationships people cannot fully appreciate the human existence
and most often do not learn how to handle destructive urges because they do not
care about society, which innately is an interpersonal relationship.(6) The
aforementioned monkeys with the lower seratonin levels also, when normal, became
hyper-aggressive social misfits when reared by a mechanized surrogate mother,
who did not give the monkeys affection. This brings up Freud-s theory of
repressed memories, in which the person puts traumatic experiences from their
past into their subconscious.(1) Freud believed that these repressed memories
will surface in the form of disorders and problems, mostly exhibited through
either sexual dysfunction or violence.(9) Therefore our early surroundings
affect us for most of our lives, at least according to Sigmund Freud.

Environment and exposure compounds any genetic factors, for instance, the inner
parts of Washington D.C. have considerably higher aggressive crime rates
(murder, rape, aggravated assault) than a Maryland suburb like the
Derwood/Olney/Flower Hill area does. Reasons for such rates are that the city
houses more people closer to the poverty line.(3) These people have constant
stresses that people do not need to deal with in the suburbs. Drugs and alcohol
are also a considerably stronger force in the city. Those two intoxicants allow
people to perform acts that they would regularly not have the mind to do. For
example, alcohol is consumed, a person looses their inhibitory brain functions
and are more likely to “forget” the consequences of an aggravated
assault or a murder.(3,9) For that reason it is likely that there was a rash of
psychopathic killers in the Russo-Asiatic area in the past decades. In cities,
because of the higher level drug business there is a greater need for guns and
weapons. Due to the higher level of guns intrinsically there will be more murder
and violence. The environment thus fuels the violent nature of the
city-dwellers. Immediate environment also tends to influence aggression. For
example, a person could be inadvertently aggressive toward another in the
following way; One person sits down at the only open stool in a bar, he orders a
bowl of pretzels and a cold beer. The bartender brings him his beer, and he
begins to read his newspaper. Suddenly the person next to him eats a pretzel,
without saying a word. At this the person is shocked, and thinks, “how can
this cruel person be eating my pretzels?” Out of fear for starting an
argument he says nothing but eats one of the pretzels and both men take turns
eating pretzels from the bowl until they are gone. The other man then puts money
for his beer down and walks away. The first man then thinks, “Wow! I am
glad that evil person is gone, who would steal a complete strangers pretzels,
Honestly?” The bartender then arrives and says, “here is your pretzel
bowl enjoy.”(3, Adams- Hitchhiker-s Guide to the Galaxy) The
victim immediately turned into the aggressor by taking the other man-s
pretzels. Thus inadvertently being extremely aggressive towards another human.

Immediate distance also generally affects the aggressiveness level of a person,
especially when killing is involved. The tendency is as follows; the further
away one is from the intended victim the least resistance there will be towards
committing the act of aggression. The bomber pilots who firebombed the city of
Dresden, Hamburg, or Tokyo caused the deaths of about 400,000 people but not
once did they hear the screaming or see the faces of the untold number of
children, women, and elderly that they killed. (3,8,Handler) On the other hand,
a person within knife range of person will have a more traumatic repercussions
of killing someone. Whereas the artillery sergeant will never see the face of
his victims, the infantry man will see the terrible contortions of their
victims- faces and hear their pitiful screams as a bullet rips through the
inner lining of their stomach and all intestinal acid seeps onto the rest of
their organs.(8) It is a much more traumatic experience and will thereby lower
the aggressive level and might even make the aggressor penitent. For example one
WWII soldiers, William Manchester, states how; There was a door which meant
there was another room and the sniper was in that v and I just broke that
down. I was just absolutely gropped by the fear that this man would expect me
and would shoot me. But as it turned out he was in a sniper harness and he
couldn-t turn around fast enough. He was entangled in the harness so I
shot him with a .45 and I felt remorse and shame. I just remember whispering
foolishly, “I-m sorry” and then just throwing up.(8) This point
of view contrasts sharply with the prerogative of J. Douglas Harvey a World War
II bomber pilot who upon visiting rebuilt Berlin said, “I could not
visualize the horrible deaths my bombs-had caused here. I had no feeling
of guilt.”(8) Another important factor involving the aggression of people
are other people. Very few times does an aggressive act stand alone, there is
almost always mutual fault and/or shared blame. David Luckenbill found, in one
of his studies, that the major part of criminal homicide revolved around some
sort of reciprocal provocations in which collective hostility escalated until
one person murdered the other.(3) Murray Straus found the same circumstance
appeared in marital violence. In half of the reported cases of domestic violence
it was found that both spouses were violent, it just tended to be that one
person was considerably stronger than the other.(3) Aggressive behavior has been
a huge part of humankind since people first starting walking somewhat erect.

From our predecessor the “killer ape” to the intricacies of nuclear
warfare. Whether it is a “caveman” clubbing his enemy for stealing his
food, or a highly paid sniper sitting atop a roof waiting for a South American
dictator to walk out of his house, aggression follows us wherever we might go.

Aggression is a force that is hard to imagine and even harder to harness. Should
people ever learn to control and thereby use their aggression towards greater
good, the walls we now know would crumble easily under the forcing of such a
force.


Bibliography
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Psychology