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increasing irritability and hostility on the one hand, and giving the drinker “permis-
sion” to act out in social situations on the other, alcohol has the net effect of enhancing
aggressive behavior.
Finally, the alcohol-aggression link is mediated by individual characteristics and
the social situation. Individuals, especially men, who are high on a characteristic known
as dispositional empathy (an emotion associated with helping behavior) are less likely
to behave aggressively after alcohol consumption than those low on this characteristic
(Giancola, 2003). Cheong and Nagoshi (1999) had participants engage in a competitive
Chapter 10 Interpersonal Aggression 369

game with a bogus participant. The game was played under one of three conditions. In
one condition, the real participant was told that his opponent could deliver a loud noise
in an attempt to disrupt his performance (aggression). In the second condition, the real
participant was told that his opponent would use the loud noise to keep the real partici-
pant alert during the boring task (altruism). In the third condition, the real participant
was given ambiguous information about his opponentʼs motives (maybe aggression or
maybe altruism). Furthermore, before engaging in the task, participants consumed either
alcoholic drinks or a placebo. One-half of the placebo participants were told they were
consuming an alcoholic beverage (expectancy for alcohol) and the other half were told
their drinks were placebos. Finally, participants completed a personality measure of
their impulsiveness and sensation-seeking tendencies.
The results of this experiment showed that alcohol-mediated aggression depended on
the nature of the situation (aggression vs. altruism), personality, and alcohol consumption.
Speci¬cally, participants who scored highly on the measure of impulsiveness/sensation-
seeking were the most aggressive after consuming alcohol, but only when they believed
their opponent was using the loud noise aggressively. When the opponentʼs motive was
either altruistic or ambiguous, this effect did not occur. Thus, whether an individual
behaves aggressively after consuming alcohol depends on the nature of the situation
and oneʼs predisposition toward impulsive behavior or sensation-seeking.

Physiology and Aggression: Summing Up
What can we learn from this research on the physiological aspects of aggression in
animals? How much of it can be applied to human beings? Not many people would
attribute John Muhammad and Lee Malvoʼs murderous behavior to an overabundance
of testosterone or abnormal brain circuitry. Research with animals supports the general
conclusion that aggression does have a physiological component. However, in humans,
biological forces cannot account for all, or even most, instances in which aggression is
displayed (Huesmann & Eron, 1984). The human being is a profoundly cultural animal.
Although aggression is a basic human drive, the expression of that drive depends on
forces operating in a particular society at a particular time. Muhammad and Malvoʼs
behavior was the product not only of their biology but also of their social world, which
included playing violent video games and hanging around with a group that supported
violence. Laws and social and cultural norms serve as powerful factors that can inhibit
or facilitate aggressive behavior.

The Frustration-Aggression Link
Imagine for a moment that you are standing in front of a snack machine, You dig into
your pocket and come up with your last 75 cents. You breathe a sigh of relief. You are
very hungry and have just enough money to get a bag of chips. You put your money
into the machine and press the button. You watch and wait for the mechanism to operate
and drop your bag of chips. Instead, the mechanism grinds away and your bag of chips
gets hung up in the machine. You mutter a few choice words, kick the machine, and
walk away in a huff.
Analysis of this incident gives us some insight into a factor that social psychologists
believe instigates aggression. In the example, a goal you wished to obtain”satisfying
your hunger”was blocked. This produced an emotional state that led to aggression
Social Psychology

(kicking the vending machine). Your reaction to such a situation illustrates the general
frustration-aggression principles of a classic formulation known as the frustration-aggression hypothesis
hypothesis A hypothesis (Dollard, Doob, Miller, Mowrer, & Sears, 1939).
that frustration and aggression In its original form, the frustration-aggression hypothesis stated that “aggression
are strongly related,
is always a consequence of frustration, the occurrence of aggressive behavior always
suggesting that aggression
presupposes the existence of frustration and, contrariwise . . . the existence of frus-
is always the consequence
tration leads to some form of aggression” (Dollard et al., 1939, p. 1). In other words,
of frustration and frustration
leads to aggression. according to the frustration-aggression hypothesis, when we are frustrated, we behave

Components of the Frustration-Aggression Sequence
What are the components of the frustration-aggression sequence? An assumption of the
frustration-aggression hypothesis is that emotional arousal occurs when goal-directed
behavior is blocked. Frustration occurs, then, when two conditions are met. First, we
expect to perform certain behaviors, and second, those behaviors are blocked (Dollard
et al., 1939).
Frustration can vary in strength, depending on three factors (Dollard et al., 1939).
The ¬rst is the strength of the original drive. If you are very hungry, for example, and
are deprived of a snack, your frustration will be greater than if you are only slightly
hungry. The second factor is the degree to which the goal-directed behavior is thwarted.
If your kicking of the machine dislodged a smaller snack, for example, you would be
less frustrated than if you received no snack at all. The third factor is the number of frus-
trated responses. If your thwarted attempt to get a snack came on the heels of another
frustrating event, your frustration would be greater.
Once we are frustrated, what do we choose as a target? Our ¬rst choice is the
source of our frustration (Dollard et al., 1939)”the vending machine, in our example.
But sometimes aggression against the source of frustration is not possible. The source
may be a person in a position of power over us, such as our boss. When direct aggres-
sion against the source of aggression is blocked, we may choose to vent our frustration
against another safer target”a son, perhaps. If we have a bad day at work or school,
we may take it out on an innocent roommate or family member when we get home.
This process is called displaced aggression (Dollard et al., 1939). Displaced aggres-
sion is in¬‚uenced by the following factors (Marcus-Newhall, Pederson, Carlson, &
Miller, 2000):
1. Intensity of the original provocation. The higher the intensity, the less the
2. Similarity between the original and displaced target. The higher the similarity,
the greater the displacement.
3. The negativity of the interaction between the individual and original target. The
more negative the interaction, the greater the displacement.
Although the original frustration-aggression hypothesis stated categorically that
frustration always leads to aggression, acts of frustration-based aggression can be inhib-
ited (Dollard et al., 1939). If there is a strong possibility that your aggressive behavior
will be punished, you may not react aggressively to frustration. If a campus security
guard were standing beside the vending machine, for example, you probably wouldnʼt
kick it for fear of being arrested.
Chapter 10 Interpersonal Aggression 371

Factors Mediating the Frustration-Aggression Link
The frustration-aggression hypothesis stirred controversy from the moment it was
proposed. Some theorists questioned whether frustration inevitably led to aggression
(Miller, 1941). Others suggested that frustration leads to aggression only under spe-
ci¬c circumstances, such as when the blocked response is important to the individual
(Blanchard & Blanchard, 1984).
As criticisms of the original theory mounted, modi¬cations were made. For example,
Berkowitz (1989) proposed that frustration is connected to aggression by negative affect,
such as anger. If, as shown in Figure 10.2, the frustration of goal-directed behavior leads
to anger, then aggression will occur. If no anger is aroused, no aggression will result. If
anger mediates frustration, we must specify which frustrating conditions lead to anger.
Theoretically, if the blocking of goal-directed behavior does not arouse anger, then the
frustrated individual should not behave aggressively. Letʼs consider other factors that
mediate the frustration-aggression link.

Attributions about Intent
Recall from Chapter 4 that we are always interpreting peopleʼs behavior, deciding that
they did something because they meant it (an internal attribution) or because of some
outside situational factor (an external attribution). The type of attribution made about
a source of frustration is one important factor contributing to aggression. If someoneʼs
behavior frustrates us and we make an internal attribution, we are more likely to respond
with aggression than if we make an external attribution.
Research shows that the intent behind an aggressive act is more important in deter-
mining the degree of retaliation than the actual harm done (Ohbuchi & Kambara, 1985).
Individuals who infer negative intent on the part of another person are most likely to
retaliate. The actual harm done is no t so important as the intent behind the aggressorʼs
act (Ohbuchi & Kambara, 1985).
There is additional evidence about the importance of attributions for aggression.
Research shows that if we are provided with a reasonable explanation for the behavior
of someone who is frustrating us, we will react less aggressively than if no explanation

Figure 10.2 The
relationship among
frustration, anger, and
aggression. Frustration
leads to aggression only if
it arouses negative affect,
such as anger.
Social Psychology

is given (Johnson & Rule, 1986; Kremmer & Stephens, 1983). Moreover, if we believe
that aggression directed against us is typical for the situation in which it occurs, we
are likely to attribute our attackerʼs actions to external factors. Thus, we will retaliate
less than if we believe the attacker was choosing atypical levels of aggression (Dyck &
Rule, 1978). In this case, we would be more likely to attribute the attackerʼs aggression
to internal forces and to retaliate in kind if given the opportunity.

Perceived Injustice and Inequity
Another factor that can contribute to anger and ultimately to aggression is the percep-
tion that we have been treated unjustly. The following account of a violent sports inci-
dent illustrates the power of perceived injustice to incite aggression (Mark, Bryant, &
Lehman, 1983, pp. 83“84):
In November 1963, a riot occurred at Roosevelt Raceway, a harness racing track in
the New York metropolitan area. Several hundred fans swarmed onto the track. The
crowd attacked the judgesʼ booth, smashed the tote board, set ¬res in program booths,
broke windows, and damaged cars parked in an adjacent lot. Several hundred police
of¬cers were called to the scene. Fifteen fans were arrested, 15 others hospitalized.
What incited this riot? The sixth race was the ¬rst half of a daily double, in which bettors
attempt to select the winners of successive races, with potentially high payoffs. During the
sixth race, six of the eight horses were involved in an accident and did not ¬nish the race. In
accordance with New York racing rules, the race was declared of¬cial. All wagers placed on
the six non¬nishing horses were lost, including the daily double bets. Many fans apparently
felt that they were unjustly treated, that the race should have been declared no contest.
This incident is not unique. Frequently, we read about fans at a soccer match who
riot over a “bad call” or fans at a football game who pelt of¬cials with snowballs or
beer cans following a call against a home team. In each case, the fans are reacting to
what they perceive to be an injustice done to the home team.
Aggression is often seen as a way of restoring justice and equity in a situation. The
perceived inequity in a frustrating situation, as opposed to the frustration itself, leads
to aggression (Sulthana, 1987). For example, a survey of female prison inmates who
had committed aggravated assault or murder suggested that an important psychologi-
cal cause for their aggression was a sense of having been treated unjustly (Diaz, 1975).
This perception, apparently rooted in an inmateʼs childhood, persisted into adulthood
and resulted in aggressive acts.
Of course, not all perceived injustice leads to aggression. Not everyone rioted at the
New York race track, and most sports fans do not assault referees for bad calls. There
may be more of a tendency to use aggression to restore equity when the recipient of the
inequity feels particularly powerless (Richardson, Vandenbert, & Humphries, 1986).
In one study, participants with lower status than their opponents chose higher shock
levels than did participants with equal or higher status than their opponents (Richardson
et al., 1986). We can begin to understand from these ¬ndings why groups who believe
themselves to be unjustly treated, who have low status and feel powerless, resort to
aggressive tactics, especially when frustrated, to remedy their situation. Riots and ter-
rorism are often the weapons of choice among those with little power.

The Heat Effect
For centuries it has been the belief that aggression is more likely to occur when it is
heat effect The observation
hot than when it is cool. The heat effect refers to the observation that aggression is
that aggression is more likely
more likely when people are hot than when they are cool (Anderson, 1989, 2001). For
when people are hot than
when they are cool. example, as shown in Table 10.1, most major riots in the United States have occurred
Chapter 10 Interpersonal Aggression 373

Table 10.1 Riots in the United States and Heat

State Dates City

New York July 24“26, 1964 Rochester
New Jersey August 2, 11, 12, 1964 Jersey City, Patterson, Elizabeth
Pennsylvania August 28“30, 1964 Philadelphia
Illinois August 16“17, 1964 Dixmoor riot, Chicago
California August 11“17, 1965 Los Angeles
Michigan July 23“24, 1967 12th St. Riot, Detroit
New Jersey July 12“16, 1967 Newark
Washington, DC April 4“7, 1968 Washington (MLK death)
Illinois August 26“29, 1968 Chicago (Democratic Convention)
New York June 27, 1969 Stonewall
New York September 9, 1971 Attica Prison
California April 29“30, 1992 Los Angeles (R. King)

during months when the weather is hot. Incidents of homicides, assaults, rapes, and
family disturbances all peak during summer months, especially during the month of
July (Anderson, 1989). Anderson (2001) has reviewed the research (¬eld and labora-
tory) and has concluded that the heat effect is real and is most likely due to the fact that
when it is hot, people get more cranky (Berkowitz, 1993). According to Berkowitz, heat
distorts assessments of social interactions so that what might ordinarily be passed off
as a minor incident gets blown out of proportion and becomes a cause for aggression.
Anderson and his colleagues (2000) have proposed the General Affective Aggression
Model (GAAM) that draws on this idea to account for the effects of heat on aggression.
As shown in Figure 10.3, heat-induced negative affect (crankiness) primes aggressive
thoughts and perceptions, which then cause the escalation of a minor incident.

The Social Learning Explanation for Aggression
The frustration-aggression hypothesis focuses on the responses of individuals in par-
ticular, frustrating situations. But clearly, not all people respond in the same ways to
frustrating stimuli. Some respond with aggression, whereas others respond with renewed
determination to overcome their frustration. It appears that some people are more pre-
disposed to aggression than others. How can we account for these differences?
Although there are genetically based, biological differences in aggressiveness among
individuals, social psychologists are more interested in the role of socialization in the
development of aggressive behavior (Huesmann, 1988; Huesmann & Malamuth, 1986).
Socialization, as mentioned earlier, is the process by which children learn the behav-
iors, attitudes, and values of their culture. Socialization is the work of many agents,
including parents, siblings, schools, churches, and the media. Through the socializa-
tion process, children learn many of the behavior patterns, both good and bad, that will
stay with them into adulthood.
Social Psychology

Priming of
Heat induced Escalation of
hostile affect a minor


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