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females to be the target of aggression. Females, however, tend to use verbal
Chapter 10 Interpersonal Aggression 395

aggression more than males. Males and females also think differently about
aggression. Females tend to feel guiltier than males about using aggression
and show more concern for the harm done by aggression. The observed gender
differences are most likely a result of the interaction between biological and
social forces.
Laboratory research on gender differences in aggression suggests that the
difference between males and females is reliable but quite small. However,
crime statistics bear out the commonly held belief that males are more
aggressive than females. Across three major categories of violent crime (murder,
robbery, and assault), males commit far more violent crimes than females.
4. How can we explain aggression?
As is typical of most complex behaviors, aggression has multiple causes.
Several explanations for aggression can be offered, including both biological
and social factors.
5. What are the ethological, sociobiological, and genetic explanations for
aggression?
Biological explanations include attempts by ethologists and sociobiologists
to explain aggression as a behavior with survival value for individuals
and for groups of organisms. Ethology theory suggests that aggression is
related to the biological survival and evolution of an organism. This theory
emphasizes the roles of instincts and genetics. Sociobiology, like ethology,
looks at aggression as having survival value and resulting from competition
among members of a species. Aggression is seen as one behavior biologically
programmed into an organism. There is also a genetic component for
aggression, especially for males. Research has found that genetics and the
common environment combine to in¬‚uence aggression. Most likely, genetics
operates by resulting in characteristics that predispose a person to behave
aggressively. However, just because a person has a genetic predisposition for
aggression does not guarantee that the person will behave aggressively.
6. What role do brain mechanisms play in aggression?
The roles of brain mechanisms and hormonal in¬‚uences in aggression have
also been studied. Stimulation of certain parts of the brain elicits aggressive
behavior. The hypothalamus is one part of the brain that has been implicated
in aggression. Stimulation of one part of the hypothalamus in a cat leads
to emotional aggression, whereas stimulation of another elicits predatory
aggression. Interacting with social factors, these neurological factors increase
or decrease the likelihood of aggression. The male hormone testosterone has
also been linked to aggressive behavior. Higher concentrations of testosterone
are associated with more aggression. Like brain mechanisms, hormonal
in¬‚uences interact with the social environment to in¬‚uence aggression.
7. How does alcohol consumption relate to aggression?
Although alcohol is considered a sedative, it tends to increase aggression.
Research shows that individuals who are intoxicated behave more aggressively
than those who are not. Furthermore, it is not only the pharmacological effects
of alcohol that increase aggression. An individualʼs expectations about the
Social Psychology
396

effects of alcohol also can increase aggression after consuming a beverage
believed to be alcoholic. Alcohol appears to operate on the brain to reduce
levels of the neurotransmitter serotonin. This reduction is serotonin is related
to increased aggression. Furthermore, alcohol tends to suppress the executive
cognitive functions that normally operate to mediate aggressive responses.
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 are less likely to behave aggressively. It appears
that alcohol interacts with individual characteristics and the social situation to
in¬‚uence aggression.
8. What is the frustration-aggression hypothesis?
The frustration-aggression hypothesis suggests that aggression is caused by
frustration resulting from blocked goals. This hypothesis has raised much
controversy. Once frustrated, we choose a target for aggression. Our ¬rst choice
is the source of the frustration, but if the source is an inappropriate target,
we may vent our frustration against another target. This is called displaced
aggression. Whether aggression is displaced depends on three factors: the
intensity of the original frustration, the similarity between the original and
displaced target, and the negativity of the interaction between the individual
and original target.
9. How does anger relate to frustration and aggression, and what factors
contribute to anger?
A modi¬ed version of the frustration-aggression hypothesis suggests that
frustration does not lead to aggression unless a negative affect such as anger is
aroused. Anger may be aroused under several conditions. Cognitive mediators,
such as attributions about intent, have been found to play a role in the
frustration-aggression link as well. If we believe that another person intends to
harm us, we are more likely to react aggressively. If we are given a good reason
for why we are frustrated, we are less likely to react aggressively.
Another social psychological mechanism operating to cause aggression
is perceived injustice. Aggression can be used to restore a sense of justice
and equity in such situations. Research suggests that a perceived inequity in a
frustrating situation is a stronger cause for aggression than frustration itself.
High temperature also relates to frustration-related aggression. Research
shows that under conditions of high temperature, aggression is likely to occur.
One explanation for this is that heat makes people cranky and more likely to
interpret situations as aggressive, calling for an aggressive response.
10. How does social learning theory explain aggression?
According to social learning theory, aggression is learned, much like any other
human behavior. The primary means of learning for social learning theorists
is observational learning, or modeling. By watching others we learn new
behaviors or have preexisting behaviors inhibited or disinhibited. Research
con¬rms the role of early experience in the development of aggressive
behavior. Additionally, there is continuity between childhood aggression and
adult aggression.
Chapter 10 Interpersonal Aggression 397

11. What are aggressive scripts, and how do they relate to aggression?
One mechanism believed to underlie the relationship between observation and
aggression is the formation of an aggressive script during the socialization
process. These aggressive scripts lead a person to behave more aggressively
and to interpret social situations in aggressive terms. During the socialization
process, children develop aggressive scripts and behavior patterns because they
are exposed to acts of aggression, both within the family and in the media.
12. How does the family socialize a child into aggression?
Research shows that aggressive behavior patterns develop early in life.
Research also shows that there is continuity between childhood aggression
and aggression later in life; that is, an aggressive child is likely to grow into an
aggressive adult.
According to the social-interactional model, antisocial behavior such as
aggression results from inept parenting. Parental use of physical or verbal
aggression is related to heightened aggressiveness among children, a ¬nding
that extends across cultures. Physical punishment is signi¬cantly associated
with a variety of negative outcomes, including aggressive behavior, lower
levels of moral internalization of behavior, degraded parent-child relationships,
and poorer mental health. Other research shows that verbal aggression directed
at children by parents is particularly problematic. Verbal aggression may signal
parental rejection, which has been associated with a host of negative outcomes,
including aggression.
Child abuse and neglect also have been found to lead to increases in
aggression (as measured by violent crime). In addition, child abuse leads to a
desensitization to the suffering of others. An abused child is likely to respond
to an agemate in distress with anger and physical abuse, rather than concern
or empathy (as would a nonabused child). Child abuse, then, leads to a callous
attitude toward others as well as to increases in aggression.
Finally, family disruption also relates to increases in aggression. Children
from disrupted homes have been found to engage in more criminal behavior as
adults than children from nondisrupted homes.
13. What is the role of culture in aggression?
An individualʼs level of aggressiveness relates to the cultural environment
within which he or she is reared. Cross-cultural research shows that aggression
is less likely to occur in cultures that have collectivist values, high levels of
moral discipline, egalitarian values, low levels of avoiding uncertainty, and
Confucian values.
Research comparing individuals from the American South with the
American North has shown differences in attitudes toward using aggression.
Generally, individuals from the South are more favorable toward using
aggression than individuals from the North. One explanation for this is that a
culture of honor has developed in the South (and the West) because different
people settled these regions during the 17th and 18th centuries. The South was
settled by people from herding economies, and these people were predisposed
to be constantly vigilant for theft on oneʼs stock and react with force to drive
intruders away to protect oneʼs property. From this the culture of honor emerged.
Social Psychology
398

14. What role do the media play in aggression?
One important application of social learning theory to the problem of aggression
is the relationship between media portrayals of aggression and aggressive
behavior. Research suggests that children who watch aggressive television
programs tend to be more aggressive. Although some early research suggested
that males were more affected by television violence than were females, more
recent research suggests that there is no reliable, general difference between
males and females. One gender difference that does emerge is that children,
especially males, who identify with television characters are most affected by
television violence. Additionally, heavy doses of television violence desensitize
individuals to violence. A meta-analysis has shown that televised violence is
most likely to lead to overt aggression when the violence shown on television is
justi¬ed, is shown having inaccurate consequences, and is plausible.
Although many studies have established a link between watching media
violence and aggression, the observed effects are small. Additionally, televised
violence does not affect everyone in the same way. Some individuals are more
prone to be affected by televised violence than others.
15. What are the effects of playing violent video games on aggressive behavior?
Research shows that playing violent video games increases aggression among
both males and females. Additionally, playing violent video games increases
physiological arousal, aggressive thoughts and emotions, and state hostility.
Violent video games are also associated with a short-term decrease in prosocial
behavior. Playing a violent video game activates parts of the brain that are
commonly associated with aggressive thoughts and behavior, while suppressing
parts of the brain associated with empathy. Finally, playing violent video games
does not affect everyone equally. Long-term playing of violent video games
is associated with increased aggression most strongly among people with
aggressive personalities.
16. What is the link between sexual violence portrayed in the media and sexual
aggression directed toward women?
The research on the link between violent sexual media portrayals and violence
directed at women leads to six conclusions: (1) Exposure to mild forms of
erotica tends to decrease sexual violence against women. (2) Exposure to
explicit or sexually violent erotica increases aggression against women but
not against men. (3) Individuals who are angry are more likely to be more
aggressive after viewing sexually explicit or violent materials than individuals
who are not angry. (4) Male college students are aroused by depictions of
rape. However, individuals who show a greater predisposition to rape are more
aroused, especially if the victim is shown being aroused by sexual violence.
(5) Exposure to media portrayals of sexual violence increases acceptance
of violence against women and contributes to the rape myth. Thus, sexually
explicit, violent pornography contributes to a social climate that tolerates
rape. (6) There is no single psychological characteristic that predisposes a
man to sexual violence. Instead, several characteristics interact to increase the
likelihood that a man will be sexually violent.
Chapter 10 Interpersonal Aggression 399

17. How can aggression be reduced?
Many factors contribute to aggression, including biological predispositions,
frustration, the presence of aggressive cues, the media, and family factors. The
most fruitful approach to reducing aggression is to target family factors that
contribute to aggression. Aggression can be reduced if parents change inept
parenting styles, do not abuse or neglect their children, and minimize family
disruption. Parents should reduce or eliminate their use of physical and verbal
aggression directed at children. Positive reinforcement for desired behavior
and time-out techniques should be used more often. Socializing children to be
altruistic and caring can also help reduce aggression.
According to the cognitive approach, children are encouraged to
reinterpret situations as nonaggressive. The social information-processing
view of aggression maintains that there are ¬ve important steps involved in
the instigation to aggression: We perceive and decode cues from our social
environment, we develop expectations of othersʼ behavior based on our
attribution of intent, we look for possible responses, we decide which response
is most appropriate, and we carry out the chosen response. The cognitive
approach suggests that aggressive individuals need to change their view of the
world as a hostile place, to manage their aggressive impulses, and to learn new
social skills for managing their interpersonal problems.
Prosocial
Behavior
and Altruism
Whoever destroys a single life is as guilty as though
he had destroyed the entire world; and whoever
rescues a single life earns as much merit as
though he had rescued the entire world.
”The Talmud



When Irene Gut Opdyke was growing up in Poland during the 1930s, she Key Questions
could never have imagined the fate that the future had in store for her. Irene As you read this chapter,
was born in a small village in Poland on May 5, 1922. Early in her life she ¬nd the answers to the
decided to enter a profession that involved helping others, so she enrolled following questions:
in nursing school. However, Irene had to ¬‚ee her home when the Nazis
1. What is altruism and how
invaded Poland in 1939. Irene eventually joined a Polish underground unit is it different from helping
but was beaten and raped by a group of Russian soldiers who found her behavior? Why is the
group in the woods. difference important?
Next, Irene decided to try to ¬nd her family and began making her way 2. What are empathy and
back home. She was captured in a church by the Germans and forced to egoism, and how do they
work in a munitions plant. The work was physically demanding, and one relate to altruism?
day Irene collapsed under the burden of her work. Because of her youth, 3. What about the idea that we
Aryan appearance, and good looks, Irene caught the eye of a German may help to avoid guilt or
major named Eduard Rugemer. Rugemer arranged for Irene to work in a shame?
local hotel that catered to German army and SS of¬cers. Her primary duties 4. What role does biology play
involved serving the of¬cers their meals. in altruism?
It was during her period of employment at the hotel that she ¬rst noticed 5. How do social psychologists
what was happening to Jews. She saw ¬rsthand the treatment the Jews explain helping in an
endured in the ghetto behind the hotel. She saw a baby ¬‚ung into the air emergency situation?
and shot by a Nazi. She then decided that she had to do something. One 6. What factors affect the
of her ¬rst helping acts was to save table scraps and leave them for the decision to help?
starving dwellers of the ghetto. As the war progressed, the Germans were
7. If you need help, how can
forced to move their munitions plant to Ternopol, Poland. Here Irene resumed you increase your chances of
her duties serving meals. Major Rugemer also put Irene in charge of the receiving help?
laundry where she met a family of Jews and befriended them. Irene started



401
Social Psychology
402


helping them by giving them food and blankets. Around this time Major Rugemer
8. Other than traditional also made Irene his personal housekeeper. One day while serving a meal to the
helping in emergency German of¬cers she overheard a conversation indicating that more and more
situations, what other
Jews were to be rounded up and killed. Her friends in the laundry were clearly
forms of helping are
in danger. So, Irene made a momentous decision. She decided to hide the Jews
there?
to save them from extermination.
9. How do personality

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