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his assailants, Aaron McKinney, was apparently angry over a purported “pass” made
by Shepard toward McKinney. Acts of aggression that stem from such emotional states
instrumental aggression
are examples of hostile aggression. Instrumental aggression stems from the desire to
Aggressive behavior stemming
achieve a goal. For example, such aggression could be involved in the desire to get rid
from a desire to achieve a
of a rival.
goal.
Hostile aggression and instrumental aggression are not mutually exclusive. One
can commit an aggressive act having both underlying motives. In 1994, when Baruch
Goldstein killed over 30 Palestinians in a mosque in Hebron, he had two motives. He
was motivated by intense hatred of Palestinians, whom he perceived as trying to take
away land that rightfully belonged to Jews. He also was motivated by the hope of
derailing the fragile peace talks between the Palestine Liberation Organization and the
Israeli government. His act, thus, had a hostile component (hatred) and an instrumental
component (derailing the peace talks).
Another distinction can be made between direct aggression and indirect aggression.
(The origin of these terms is dif¬cult to trace, so we shall not attempt to speci¬cally
identify who coined these terms. Suf¬ce it to say that this is a distinction made by a
direct aggression Overt
variety of aggression researchers.) Direct aggression refers to overt forms of aggres-
forms of aggression such as
sion such as physical aggression (hitting, punching, kicking, etc.) and verbal aggres-
physical aggression (hitting,
sion (name calling, denigration, etc.). Indirect aggression is aggression that is social
punching, kicking, etc.) and
in nature (social ostracism, deliberate social exclusion). verbal aggression (name
A form of aggression that has elements of both direct and indirect aggression is calling, denigration, etc.).
relational aggression (Archer, 2004). This form of aggression involves using social
indirect aggression
ostracism and rejection (indirect aggression), but can also be directly confrontational
Aggression that is social
(direct aggression). An example of the direct aspect of relational aggression is when a in nature, such as social
child tells another child that she will stop liking her unless the other child does what ostracism and deliberate
social exclusion.
she wants (Archer, 2004).
In some forms of aggression the target is harmed verbally through gossip, character relational aggression
assassination, damage to the victimʼs property (Moyer, 1987), or interference with A form of aggression
the victimʼs advancement toward a goal. This form of aggression is called symbolic having direct and indirect
components involving the
aggression. For example, if a person spreads rumors about a coworker in order to keep
use of social ostracism and
her from being promoted, the person has used symbolic aggression. Although no physical
rejection (indirect aggression)
harm was done, the coworker was blocked from achieving a goal.
and direct confrontation
The forms of aggression just noted can be either hostile or instrumental. The of¬ce (direct aggression).
worker may have spread rumors because she was angry at her coworker”a case of
symbolic aggression
hostile aggression. Alternatively, she may have spread rumors to secure the promotion
Aggressive behavior that
for herself at her coworkerʼs expense”a case of instrumental aggression. interferes with a victim™s
Yet another form of aggression is sanctioned aggression. A soldier taking aim advancement toward a goal.
and killing an enemy soldier in battle engages in sanctioned aggression. Self-defense,
sanctioned aggression
which occurs when a person uses aggression to protect himself or herself or others
Aggressive behavior that
from harm, is another example of sanctioned aggression. Society declares that in society accepts or encourages.
certain situations, aggression is acceptable, even mandatory. A soldier who refuses
to engage in aggressive behavior may be subject to disciplinary action or even have
his or her military service abruptly ended. Typically, sanctioned aggression is instru-
mental in nature. Soldiers kill each other to save their own lives, to follow orders,
to help win a war. There need not be anger among enemy soldiers for them to try to
kill one another.
Social Psychology
360


Gender Differences in Aggression
One of the most striking features of aggression is the difference in its expression by
males and females. Certainly females can be aggressive, but males show higher levels of
physical aggression (Archer, Pearson, & Westeman, 1988). This is true among humans
(Eagly & Steffen, 1986) as well as animals (Vallortigara, 1992). A meta-analysis by
John Archer (2004) on studies investigating “real-world aggression” (i.e., self-reported
aggression, peer ratings of aggression, and observational methods) con¬rmed that
males are more aggressive than females, especially for direct aggression (e.g., physical
aggression). This gender difference was consistent across age and peaked between 20 and
30 years of age. The gender difference was also consistent across cultures. Archer also
found that females used more indirect aggression (e.g., social ostracism), but only during
late childhood and adolescence and when an observational method was used.
That males use more direct, physical forms of aggression is clear. However, the
role of gender in the use of indirect, relational aggression is still an open question. As
noted, greater female use of indirect aggression was shown only for a limited age range
of females. Another study suggests that the difference between males and females in the
use of indirect aggression is small (Salmivalli & Kaukiainan, 2004). In only one sub-
group of females was indirect aggression predominant: highly aggressive females. In a
study using an observational method (that is, children were observed during free-play
situations and aggression was measured), preschool-aged females showed more indirect
aggression than males (Ostrove & Keating, 2004).
Males and females did not differ on the levels of anger underlying aggression.
Additionally, males tend to favor aggression, verbal or physical, as a method of con¬‚ict
resolution (Bell & Forde, 1999; Reinisch & Sanders, 1986). They also are more likely
to be the target of physical aggression (Archer et al., 1988).
There are further gender differences in the cognitive aspects of using aggression.
Females report more guilt over using aggression than do males and are more concerned
about the harm their aggression may in¬‚ict on others (Eagly & Steffen, 1986). This dif-
ference is especially pronounced when physical aggression is used.
Why do these differences exist? Possible causes fall into two major areas: biologi-
cal factors and social factors. Biological factors include both brain mechanisms and hor-
mones. Most research in this area centers on the male hormone testosterone. Higher levels
of this hormone are associated with heightened aggression in both humans and animals.
There is also evidence that there is a gender difference in brain neurochemistry related
to aggression (Suarez & Krishnan, 2006). Suarez and Krishnan found that for both males
and females, the predisposition of expressing anger verbally was related to higher levels
of “free plasma tryptophan” (TRP), which is a precursor to a serotonin-related neurotrans-
mitter. However, elevated levels of TRP were associated with a greater predisposition
toward hostility and an outward expression of anger among females, but not males.
Despite hormonal and other physiological differences between males and females,
differences in aggressive tendencies and expression may relate more closely to gender
roles than to biology (Eagly & Steffen, 1986). Both boys and girls are encouraged to
engage in gender-typed activities, and activities deemed appropriate for boys are more
aggressive than those for girls (Lytton & Romney, 1991). For example, parents, espe-
cially fathers, encourage their sons to play with war toys such as GI Joe ¬gures and
their daughters to play with Barbie dolls. Socialization experiences probably further
reinforce the inborn male push toward being more aggressive.
Yet another possible reason for the observed differences in aggression between
males and females is that females tend to be more sympathetic and empathic (Carlo,
Raffaelli, Laible, & Myer, 1999). Carlo and colleagues studied the relationship between
Chapter 10 Interpersonal Aggression 361

sympathy, parental involvement, and aggression (Carlo et al., 1999). They found that
individuals with high levels of sympathy and empathy were less likely to be aggressive.
Males scored lower on these dimensions but higher on aggressiveness. Additionally,
if an individual perceived that his or her parents were highly involved in childrearing,
aggression was lower for both males and females. Thus, prosocial motives (on which
females tend to outscore males) and level of parental involvement are important media-
tors of physical aggression.
It is important to note that although social psychological research (both in the labora-
tory and in the ¬eld) shows a consistent difference between males and females in aggres-
sion, this difference is very small (Eagly & Steffen, 1986; Hyde, 1984). Further, gender
differences in aggression appear to be situation dependent. Males are more aggressive
than females when they are unprovoked, but males and females show equivalent levels
of aggression when provoked (Bettencourt & Miller, 1996). Males and females also
respond differently to different types of provocation. Bettencourt and Miller (1996) report
a large gender difference when different forms of provocation are used. If provocation
involves an attack on oneʼs intellectual ability, then males are much more aggressive
than females. However, if provocation takes the form of a physical attack or a negative
evaluation of oneʼs work, males and females respond similarly. In other words, although
males and females differ in levels of aggression, we should not conclude that gender is
the only”or even a predominant”factor in aggression. It is evident that the relation-
ship between gender and aggression is more complex than meets the eye.
Nevertheless, we must also note that there are relatively large gender differences
in real-life expressions of aggression. Statistics for violent crimes show that males are
far more likely to commit violent offenses than females by a wide margin. According
to statistics compiled by the FBI, in 2004, 88.5% of individuals arrested for murder
were male. Similarly, 79.2% of arrestees for aggravated assault were male. With
respect to murder, the gap between males and females has widened over the years.
In 1976, males committed 83.4% of murders compared to 16.6% for females, and in
1988, males committed 88% of murders compared to 12% for females (Flanagan &
Maguire, 1992). So, even though the difference between the genders in measurable
acts of aggressiveness is small, in any speci¬c real-world situation, this difference is
magni¬ed and elaborated.

Explanations for Aggression
We turn now to the broad question, What causes aggression? As suggested here, both
biological and social factors contribute to aggressive behavior. Additionally, research
shows that frustration often leads to aggression. These factors are considered in the
next sections.



Biological Explanations for Aggression
Biological explanations for aggression occur on two levels, the macro and the micro. On
the macro level, aggression is considered for its evolutionary signi¬cance, its role in the
survival of the species. On the micro level, aggression is investigated as a function of
brain and hormonal activity. We consider here two theories of aggression on the macro
level”the ethological and sociobiological approaches”and then turn to the physiol-
ogy and genetics of aggression. We also consider the effects of alcohol on aggression.
Social Psychology
362


Ethology
ethology A theoretical Ethology is the study of the evolution and functions of animal behavior (Drickamer &
perspective that views Vessey, 1986). Ethological theory views behavior in the context of survival; it emphasizes
behavior within the context the role of instincts and genetic forces in shaping how animals behave (Lorenz, 1963).
of survival and emphasizes
From an ethological perspective, aggression is seen as behavior that evolved to help a
the role of instincts and
species adapt to its environment. Aggression is governed by innate, instinctual motiva-
genetic forces.
tions and triggered by speci¬c stimuli in the environment. Aggressive behavior helps
establish and maintain social organization within a species.
For example, many species mark and defend their territories, the space they need
to hunt or forage. If they didnʼt do this, they wouldnʼt survive. Territorial defense
occurs when one member of a species attacks another for crossing territorial bound-
aries. The intruder is driven off by aggressive displays or overt physical attacks”or
loses his territory to the intruder. Aggression also is used to establish dominance hier-
archies within groups of animals. Within a troop of baboons, for example, the domi-
nant males enjoy special status, ascending to their positions of power by exercising
physical aggression.
Although animals use aggression against each other, few species possess the power
to kill a rival with a single blow (Lorenz, 1963). In most species, furthermore, there
are biological inhibitions against killing another member. When a combatant makes a
conciliatory gesture, such as rolling over and exposing its neck, the aggressive impulse
in the other animal is automatically checked. Thus, aggression may involve merely
exchanging a few violent actions; the ¬ght soon ends with no major harm done.
How does ethological theory relate to the human animal? First of all, humans
display territorial behavior just as animals do. Konrad Lorenz, the foremost ethologist
of the century, believed that aggression had little to do with murderous intent and a lot
to do with territory (Lorenz, 1963). Ethologists, for example, see aggressive behav-
iors among gang members as a matter of protecting oneʼs turf, such as when members
of urban street gangs physically attack members of rival gangs who cross territorial
boundaries (Johnson, 1972).
Second, there is evidence that aggression plays a role in the organization of
dominance hierarchies in human groups just as it does among animals. In one study,
researchers organized ¬rst- and third-grade children into play groups and observed the
development of dominance hierarchies within those groups (Pettit, Bakshi, Dodge, &
Cole, 1986). Aggression was found to play a signi¬cant role in establishing dominance
among both groups. Interestingly, however, among the older children, another variable
emerged as important in establishing dominance: leadership skills. Leaders did not
always have to use aggression to control the group.
Finally, ethological theory points out that humans still possess the instinct to ¬ght.
Unlike most animals, however, humans can make the ¬rst blow the last. Technology
has given us the power to make a single-blow kill (Lorenz, 1963). According to Lorenz
(1963), human technological evolution has outpaced biological evolution. We have
diminished the importance of conciliatory cues; bombs dropped from 30,000 feet cannot
respond to a conciliatory gesture.

Sociobiology
sociobiology A theoretical
Like ethology, sociobiology is the study of the biological basis of behavior.
perspective that views social
Sociobiologists, however, focus on the evolution and function of social behavior
behavior as helping groups
(Drickamer & Vessey, 1986; Reiss, 1984). Like ethological theory, sociobiology
of organisms within a species
emphasizes the biological origins and causes of behavior and views aggression as a
survive.
Chapter 10 Interpersonal Aggression 363

behavior with survival value for members of a species. For sociobiologists, aggres-
sion, like many other behaviors, plays a natural role in the intricate balance that keeps
species alive and growing.
Sociobiologist E. O. Wilson (1975) suggested that the principal function of aggres-
sion within and between species is to resolve disputes over a common limited resource.
Competition can be divided into two categories: sexual competition and resource compe-
tition. Sexual competition occurs when males compete for females at mating time. The
stronger male drives the weaker male off and then mates with the female. As a result,
the species becomes stronger. Resource competition occurs when animals must vie for
environmental resources such as food, water, and shelter. Again, the stronger animals
are able to win these competitive situations with the use of aggression.
Aggression, then, is one of many behaviors that are genetically programmed into a
species and passed along from generation to generation, according to sociobiologists.
Patterns of aggression (often mere displays of pseudoaggression) steer the course of
natural selection. Also programmed into a species are behaviors and gestures of sub-
mission. An animal can choose not to ¬ght or to withdraw from a competitive situa-
tion. There is, thus, a natural constraint on aggression within a species. It is kept at an
“optimal level,” allowing the species to secure food and shelter and to resolve disputes
over mating partners. Aggression, a potentially destructive behavior, actually contributes
to the biological health of a species, according to sociobiologists (Wilson, 1975).
In both ethology and sociobiology, then, aggression is viewed as a genetically pro-
grammed behavior with evolutionary signi¬cance. Human beings display aggression
under various circumstances because it is part of their biological heritage. However, as
noted earlier, biology plays another role in aggression. We next consider another bio-
logical approach to aggression that focuses on physiological forces within the individual
that cause aggressive behavior.

Genetics and Aggression
Later in this chapter we shall discuss extensively the social learning explanation for
aggression. Brie¬‚y, this approach suggests that aggression is a behavior that is learned
during childhood primarily through the mechanism of observational learning. The
social learning approach places a great deal of emphasis on the role of various aspects
of the environment (e.g., parents, peers, media sources) in the formation of aggressive
behaviors. However, it does not leave much room for the possibility that genetics also
may in¬‚uence aggressive behavior. In this section we shall explore the role of genetics
in aggressive behavior.
The extant research on genetic in¬‚uences on aggressive behavior suggests that
there is a genetic component to aggression that operates along with the environment.

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