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Psychological construct

Aggression as a psychological construct has been linked to the discussion of emotion. Psychologists have often emphasized that aggression is an overt manifestation of anger and or the perception that one’s personal well being is threatened. However, aggression grew into a separate field of study as research have pointed out that aggression can occur even without the presence of an external threat or the emotional state that the individual is in.

The most famous research on aggression is the study of the effect of television violence to children; it showed that children imitate aggressive behavior as a behavioral pattern devoid of any logical explanation (Anderson & Bushman, 2001). Aggression was also evident in controlled studies of chimpanzees and other animals, thereby indicating that aggression may have a biological explanation. The biological perspective says that aggression is similar to hunger, in the sense that it is a basic drive. Aggression had been found to be lined to certain parts of the brain in animal studies; hence human aggression may also be controlled by the brain.

A release of certain hormones and the cortical response to the surge in hormones may bring about aggressive behavior. On the other hand, the biological perspective also offers an alternative explanation when the early studies on television violence and aggressive behavior failed to show similar results for female children. The biological basis of aggression can be traced to the presence and level of testosterone in the body. Males predominantly have higher testosterone levels than females; hence males are more prone to exhibit aggressive behavior.

This views stresses that the higher the amount of testosterone in the body, the higher the tendency for aggression, and studies along this lines have found that males with high testosterones have higher power and social status due to their aggressiveness in pursuing their desires. For the biological point of view, aggression may take many forms, like the desire for power and authority. Aggression may not be the display of brute force and or violent behavior but as an inherent drive to subdue others and or to command the respect and fear of lesser individuals (Caplan, & Larkin, 1991).

On studies of aggressive behavior in convicted criminals, it was found that those who have committed heinous crimes were males with an extra Y chromosome also referred to as super male syndromes, the extra Y chromosome have been linked to more violent and aggressive behavior (Alper, 1998), debate on whether criminal tendencies or aggression is sex linked and genetically based has been going on for years and although research had yielded conflicting results, it has remained a popular view among students and practitioners of criminal profiles.

An alternative but related perspective on aggression had been espoused by evolution theory. From the argument of social-learning perspective that aggression is a learned response to specific situations and behaviors was taken further by evolutionary psychology. They contend that aggression is a behavior that we have inherited from our ancestors as a behavioral response for the preservation of the self and of life (Gibbons, 2004). It was stressed that man in the prehistoric times had to battle with fierce animals and predators in order to survive the very hostile environment then.

Aggression was also displayed as a means of conquering other tribes and ensuring the safety of the tribe. Thus, man has learned to behave aggressively in those times because it was necessary, it was not considered evil or deviant but rather a venerated trait. As human civilization have evolved and cultural norms have laid out what is acceptable behavior, the need for aggression have subsided, but since it is a human trait that have been programmed into our beings through evolution, man is still very much capable of aggression and displaying aggressive behaviors.

Moreover, the evolutionary perspective states that when modern man is faced with situations or environmental conditions similar to the prehistoric societies, then man automatically becomes aggressive. For example, when a boy feels that he is threatened in the sand box when big bullies invade his play area, his immediate reaction is to defend his turf, thus the physical contact, the punches and the flying kicks. The bullies are also moved to behave aggressively because the little boy is fighting back, and because they are bigger and stronger they now that they can easily subdue the boy.

The proclivity of aggressive behavior to males can also be explained by the fact that in the course of evolution, males had always been the hunter, the warrior, the leader, the defender and the stronger sex, thus males have been programmed to aggression more than females (Gibbons, 2004). However, females can also become aggressive when the safety of their offspring is threatened, and the male family member is not around to defend them, females strike back which probably is why female’s tendency for aggression is covert but none the less as deadly.

The rise in violent behavior among children and adolescents have again focused the study on aggression as a learned response and that children who have been conditioned to aggress as a form of normative behavior will likely be more aggressive than others because it is the only form of behavior they were socialized into (Anderson & Bushman, 2001). The biological and evolutionary perspective both offers an alternative explanation of aggression and both stress that aggression is inherently a character trait that is difficult to control once unleashed, aggression is hard wired in our brains biologically and as a product of human evolution.

References

Alper, J. (1998). Genes, free will, and criminal responsibility. Social Science & Medicine, 46, 1599-1611. Anderson, C. & Bushman, B. (2001). Effects of violent video games on aggressive behavior, aggressive cognition, aggressive affect, physiological arousal, and prosocial behavior: A meta-analytic review of the scientific literature. Psychological Science, 12, 353-359. Caplan, P. & Larkin, J. (1991). The anatomy of dominance and self-protection. American Psychologist, 46, 536. Gibbons, A. (2004). Tracking the evolutionary history of a “warrior” gene. Science, 304, 818

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