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Psychology - Aggression Notes

By SimranChana Jan 19, 2013 3841 Words
Evaluate explanations of institutional aggression (16 marks) Strengths

In Irwin and Cressey (1962) study they don’t look at inmates having one value. They look at the subcultures within prison. This shows the nature of the inmates as well as how they were brought up and accept other values. This is also supported by Blomberg & Lucken (2000) study on inmates.

However you could counter this point by saying its reductionist because it reduces down behaviour to measurable units.


Clemmer (1940) or McKorkle and Korn (1954) tend to suggest than inmates imported "one holistic" criminal subculture into the institution. By taking this holistic approach they are ignoring the biological approach.

The importation model fails to provide suggestions for how to manage aggressive prisoners. Suggesting that you can manage prisoners and go against their freewill. Though they may be aggressive it might be because of how they were nurtured.

Delisi (2004), it is unethical to give away possible private records. This could be seen as a breach of data protection.
This can be linked to Issue and Debates. Especially the ethics and the confidentiality.

AO3 – 4 marks – how science works:
Methodological issues (internal validity, ecological validity, population validity, reliability) Bias (cultural bias, gender bias)
Debates (nature/nurture, free will/determinism, reductionism/holism) Approaches (psychodynamic, cognitive, evolutionary, biological, behavioural) ethics

A good psychology essay...

Be Selective In the exam you will only have 30 minutes per essay so you won't be able to write the same amount you do at home, therefore it is important to make a few points and evaluate them well (possibly by using opposing points) rather than make loads of points and rush the evaluation. You do not have to mention everything in the book in order to get a good mark, it's all about quality, so just make sure that if you say something, and it is relevant and well said.

Use Evidence If you make a point, it is useful to have evidence from studies/experiments to back it up. You don't have to go crazy with the methodology of these studies (but a little won't hurt) but the most important thing is to state how the research supports/ does not support the theory in question. It may feel like you're stating the obvious, but this is what gains marks.

Use Issues and Debates Determinism, Reductionism, Gender Bias (Alpha and Beta), Culture Bias, Socially Sensitive Research/Theory, Reliability and Validity, just to name a few! They aren't too difficult to work into your essay, but it is important you explain what each one means and how it relates to the theory in question. You won't gain many marks if you list them without explaining them thoroughly.

Be Synoptic This is really important. Could an idea be better explained by another approach? Has research in this area lead to any practical applications? (Such as treatments for psychological disorders) This will show your understanding of psychology in greater detail, and how it is important in real life.

Look at the Bigger Picture Does this theory/research raise or lower the reputation of psychology as a science? E.g.: does it rely on scientific testing or is it speculative? Have other studies produced similar findings or do other studies tend to contradict its findings? 

Don't be completely negative! Make some positive evaluations too, and when you criticise studies, you can always suggest ways in which they could be improved. You are expected to show a holistic view of psychology, and that means appreciating that there are both strengths and weaknesses to studies and theories.

Look at your watch Remember; you don't have much time to write your essays in the real exam, so try to stick to 30 minutes per essay. You'll lose more marks by spending too long on one essay and not enough on another, than by writing all essays, but leaving a few points out.

When Revising... I find writing detailed essay plans helps, including notes on how I would evaluate. These would be far easier to memorise than whole essays, although writing practice essays may be beneficial too as it gets you used to time conditions. If you feel yourself getting stressed, or you are having a mental block, take a break- it is a sign you're working too hard! The best thing for this is to get a drink (definitely keep fluid levels up!) get a little bit of fresh air, and take some time to clear your mind. Even if it feels like your revision isn't getting you anywhere, it will be, so don't panic too much!

Reality is a painful thing It's more than likely that you won't be able to remember every minute detail, or remember everything you want to say in the exam, but don't let this worry you too much- just make sure the points you do make are really well explained.



Social psychological approaches to explaining aggression
Bandura’s Social Learning Theory (SLT) (1963)
Social cognitive perspective – behaviour influences by inherent psychological and socio-environmental factors. They are linked – reciprocal determinism – relies one on another. SLT basic processes (ARRM)

a) Attention – focusing on behaviour
b) Retention – storing it
c) Reproduction – copying it
d) Motivation – incentive to show it
Vicarious reinforcement – indirect experience, observe consequences. Presence of role model – similar and/or powerful – and self-efficacy is essential. Aggressive behaviour – disastrous consequences – less confidence – don’t carry out in the future, use other methods. Support - Bandura (1961)

- 72 children – 36 boys and 36 girls
- Half of the boys/girls aggressive model; half: non-aggressive (18 each group) - Aggressive scenario: half exposed to same-sex role model interacting aggressively (9 each group) - Aggressive scenario: half exposed to opposite-sex role model interacting aggressively - Control group: 24 children, no adult interacting with Bobo doll - Before experiment: teacher and experimenter: rate level of aggressiveness – provides benchmark for comparisons - Experimenter, adult and child enter room – adult one corner with mallet, construction set and Bobo doll; child another corner - Experimenter leaves (5 minutes later):

- Aggressive scenario: adult takes mallet, verbal and physical violence on Bobo doll - Non-aggressive: ignores Bobo doll and continues playing w/ construction set - Experimenter comes back after 10 minutes

- Adult leaves, child taken to another room with lovely toys for few minutes, frustration built, toys for other children, child taken to yet another room – aggressive toys (Bobo doll, mallet, dart gun) + non-aggressive (toy lorries, cars, dolls, cards) - Two way mirror – Bandura and colleagues observe

- Witnessed aggressive role model – more likely to be aggressive - Boys more aggressive when role model male; same trend for girls, but weaker Methodological issues:
(+) environmental continuity – small rooms the same for each child (+) well defined method of coding the behaviour
(-) artificial nature – lack of ecological validity – artificial setting (-) cultural bias – other potential cultural influences ignored (-) demand characteristics – please the experiment, children please adults – heard in corridor ‘this is the doll you are supposed to hit’ (-) overplayed importance of intended role model

(-) Bobo doll – originally intended for punching – this might have influenced Ethical issues:
Confidentiality of names maintained – BUT – videos of participants available in internet; children unaware of being filmed; lack of informed consent; full parental consent unlikely to be have been given. Evaluation of Bandura’s SLT

(+) helps explain why children might copy; face validity; Jamie Bulger murdered by two boys aged 10 and 11, in prior to incident, boys watched Child Play 3 (+) SLT applied to other areas of antisocial behaviour, e.g. deviancy. (+) focusing attention on power of media, not only aggression, but health, too, e.g. anorexia and bulimia. (-) imposed etic – Western researcher, Western world, assumes all cultures have universal learning processes. (-) deterministic – passively imitate the witnessed behaviour with no prior logical thought (-) Runciman (1966) – aggressive behaviour due to relative deprivation – perceived difference between what you have and what you think you should have (-) Dollard (1939) – not due to imitating aggressive behaviour, but frustration built up and cue arousal (-) reductionist, the biological factors are ignored, for e.g. neuro-anatomical, bio-chemical and genetic.

Deindividuation – decreased self-assessment and awareness; identification of individual difficult or impossible; when identification restricted, normal behaviour changes. Anonymity; reduced self-restraint; deviant and impulsive behaviour. Singer (1965) – inhibitions decreased, topics of conversation can change, e.g. ‘discussion’ of pornography more liked and people contributed more Zimbardo – sensory overload, altered states of consciousness (e.g. drugs or alcohol), decreased responsibility, and level of arousal can cause antisocial behaviour. Private self-awareness more important than public self-awareness (being anonymous); when you lose your PrSA, less able to regulate own behaviour. Reduced PrSA, rather than anonymity, leads to antisocial behaviour. Zimbardo (1969)

- Female undergraduates (FU)
- Study of learning
- Stooge – student; female undergrads – teachers
- ‘Student’ completes set of tasks – shocks delivered if done wrongly - Half FU wore laboratory coats and have their faces covered with hoodies - Half FU – normal clothes, name tags and introduced to each other - Told that ‘student’ either ‘honest’ or ‘conceited and critical’ - Irrespective of the description – deindividuated teacher twice as many shocks - Individuated – different amount depending on the description Diener (1976):

- 1,300 trick-or-treat children
- Naturalistic observation
- Wear costumes, hard to identify – more likely to perform antisocial behaviours, e.g. stealing money or sweats Silke (2003):
- 500 violent attacks in North Ireland
- Masked – more severe
Evaluation of deindividuation:
(-) not all crowds perform antisocial behaviours, e.g.
Gergen (1973):
- 6 men and 6 women – taken to lit room (control group); another 6 and 6 – dark, no light room (experimental group) - No specific instructions do what you want
- ‘Dark room’ – 15 minutes – generally polite and social; by 60 minutes – normal barriers to intimate contact overcome; 50% cuddled; 80% physically aroused - No aggressive action
Communication – improvement – no need to show face, harder to be identified – topics more perverse and varied. Bloodstein (2003) – speech problems, e.g. stuttering, fewer when wear mask. Not being able to be identified – increase self-efficacy and decreased evaluation apprehension (fear of being judged, this affect confidence and social behaviour). Mullen (1986) – more likely to help victim if wearing mask, i.e. identity harder to be revealed. Watson (1973) – 24 cultures – warriors who disguise their identity, e.g. paint, tended to be more aggressive, e.g. more likely to torture. Postmes (1998) – meta-analysis of 60 studies, no consistent finding that group influenced individual’s state and behaviour Deterministic – aggression caused by losing one’s inhibitions – presence of group determines the aggressive behaviour.

Explanations of institutional aggression
Situational forces – factors present in social situations that can encourage aggressive behaviour that would otherwise not be seen Zimbardo – Stanford Prison experiment – self-selected sampling; physical and psychological testing; ensure ‘normal’; random allocation – either prisoner or guard; Zimbardo instruction – maintain control but no physical violence. At first non-intrusive and interaction limited; by the end of the first day prisoners removed their numbers in protest – punishments more severe and perverse. Hellmann – most degrading guard. Middle class, academic family, musician, love natural life, music, food and other people. Held love for fellow human beings; Assessed for psychological abnormalities; no preference to be either prisoner or guard – it could be situation in which he found himself in that corrupted his normal way of thinking. Real life example – Abu Ghraib; AG is the result of interplay of the following factors: a) Status and power: those involved were army reservists; night shifts; try to demonstrate some control and power; no superior officer checking. b) Revenge and retaliation: revenge for killing fellow US soldiers, try to teach a lesson. c) Deindividuation and helplessness of the situation: behaviour shown instantaneously with no prior negative thinking or reasoning Individualistic (dispositional) factors:

Bad apples; depersonalise individual from the rest of the institution; is that the case? Human behaviour is largely determined by situational factors. Evaluating explanations of institutional aggression

- Socially sensitive research - confidentiality, privacy - how was the data obtained? What can be published to public view? - Nature of institutional aggression – very hard to control all the variables – often occur in natural environment – no causal relationship Security forces:

Chronic stress – inability to respond to those stressors – reason for institutional aggression. Aggression – viewed as ‘just’, ‘acceptable’ and ‘expected’; working environment – deviance, secrecy, silence and cynicism – lead to aggressive behaviour. General strain theory – negative experiences and stress -> negative feelings and emotions -> absence of coping strategies -> violent behaviour. Strain occurs when treated not as expected. Leads to disbelief in others. Anger and frustration might spur from negative relationships. Terrorism:

Black (2004) – motive – to improve current situation- through imposing negative behaviour on mass scale – collective liability. Root cause – cultural clash. Deflem (2004) – terrorist actions – opposition to Western ideas, e.g. free market, capitalism, liberal democracy. Barak (2004) – dispositional – motive behind violent behaviour – issues of shame, esteem and repressed anger; economic and political marginalization. However, 9/11 and 7/7 attacks – terrorists were university educated; supportive and wealthy families. TIP: show that you aware of dispositional and situational arguments for/against terrorism.

Biological explanations of aggression
Nature-nurture debate: internal vs. external factors – two sides – same coin; both equally important.

47 XYY karyotype – Court-Brown (1965-67) – 314 patients with XYY – ‘best to hospitalize due to increased likelihood of aggressive behaviour’; view adopted with no prior critical research; media depictions contributed further. Point later retracted; too late; scientists incorporated that into their thinking; XYY may have some effects on physical appearance, e.g. height, but aren’t more likely to be more aggressive. TIP: when evaluating, you can evaluate different biological explanations, in addition to biological and social/behavioural theories. Cairns (1983) – selective breeding can lead to more aggressive behaviour – created mice that are very aggressive in middle age, not when your or old; cannot generalize to humans; use of animal research – questionable; study wider range of animals create more informed models; is the end finding worth it? Theilgaard (1984) – study XYY personality traits; one in 1,000; only height; no link between genotype and aggressive behaviour; thematic apperception testing – XYY gives more aggressive and less anti-aggressive interpretations; may seem more aggressive, but this might not lead to performing violent behaviours Reductionist – no scope for other explanations, e.g. biochemical or brain structure.

Neural and hormonal mechanisms
Real-life example: RvSmith (1979) – murder reduced to manslaughter after taking PMT as a contributory factor. Aggressive act caused by uncontrollable hormonal changes associated with monthly cycle; Nelson (1995) – positive correlation androgens and aggressive behaviour in male and female prisoners. However, measurements not taken at the precise point when the violent act was performed. Puberty – aggression increases – androgen levels are higher. Wagner (1979) – mice - castrated – aggression reduces – testosterone injected – aggression increases. Only correlation though. Males – androgens – apart from aggressive behaviour – dominance, competitiveness, impulsiveness; measured in sport athletes – testosterone – more aggressive sport, more testosterone; higher testosterone, higher spatial ability, correlation; male hormones – not always negative. - Western researchers – culture specific; difficult to generalize to other cultures; cultural bias Harrison (2000) - individual differences – 56 men given testosterone, then frustration-inducing computer game, aggressive responses increased; not entire sample though; changes mainly psychological, minor physical. Men with high testosterone – perform well in competitive tasks, poor in co-operative. Basal model of testosterone – level of TSTR influences dominance; more TSTR, more competitive, more dominant; dominance of the effect of TSTR – more likely to take part in antisocial actions, more dominating. Mazur and Booth (1998) – men with high TSTR – more likely to divorce or remain single; use weapon in fights; have bad debts. Reciprocal model of TSTR – TSTR varies with dominance. Dominance is the cause of TSTR. Mazur and Booth (‘98) – 2,100 air veterans – TSTR reduced when married and increased when divorced. Mazur and Booth (‘98) – studies not being peer-reviewed; validity; weakness.

SRTN – my abbreviation
Serotonin – inhibitory function; Davidson (2000) – compare violent and non-violent criminals – the latter have higher serotonin. Vervet monkeys – reduce serotonin – increase aggression; vice versa. Effects all over the body – low SRTN – aggression, overeating, depression, alcohol abuse. Domestic pets – bred for reduced aggression – higher levels of SRTN Tryptophan (serotonergic drug) – given to juvenile offenders and unpredictable institutionalized individuals to reduce aggressive tendencies. - Deterministic: low serotonin – aggression; no free will

- Correlation researches; no causal relationship can be established - Human subjects – ethical issues – ethical treatment – participants ought to be looked after rather than used; make human existence better – this can ensure that psychology can use members of public in investigations.

Brain structure
Bard (‘40) – cats – detachment of higher and lower brain through lesioning; hypothalamus – responsible for aggression; cerebral cortex – reduction; stimulate lateral hypothalamus –predatorial aggression; medial – vicious attack. Amygdale – aggressive behaviour – lesioning of amygdale – taming effects; amygdalectomy – reduction of aggression; memory loss. Frontal cortex – closely linked to amygdale and hypothalamus – frontal lobe damage – short tempered; irritability; annoyance. Phineas Gage – 1848 – worker – construction of new railway; tamping iron – 1 metre long – entered through left head side, behind eye, pass through jaw. Still survived 11 years following the accident; only change – aggressive, unable to stay at any job for long. Psychopathy linked to damage in amygdale; cats, rats, hamsters – neural processes surrounding amygdale – explain aggressive behaviour. Problems of generalisation of animal researches to humans. Does the end result justify the use of animals? Balance the advancement of psychological understanding and ensure that any suffering is limited. Still, biological explanations not enough – aggression caused by socialisation, e.g. Arapesh tribe (Mead, ‘35); observation of media; situational factors, e.g. alcohol; temperature, crowding, noise; cue arousal – result of frustration.

Aggression as an adaptive response
Evolutionary approach – behaviours and cognitive processes that enabled the survival will be passed on; nature side of nature-nurture debate.

Aggressive behaviour – animals
Animals – don’t attack to kill – instead – force to back down or submit; only use physical force if necessary. Lorenz (‘66) – ethologist; humans are animals, hence show similar behaviour to animals; four main drivers behind behaviour: fear, reproduction, hunger and aggression. Aggression can only occur within (not between) species. Functions of aggression:

a) Selection of strongest + fittest (females choose mates)
b) Survival of young (protection)
c) Balanced distribution of animals – each has own territory Animals – ritualised aggression – assertion of power and maintenance of status - little harm – no real damage. Gross (’98) – jackdaw behaviour – appeasement tactic – admits defeat + submissive behaviour; animal disputes show remarkable amount of restraint. Lorenz’s work outdated and oversimplified – human and non-human behaviours the same, are they really? What is true for an animal is true for humans is it? Might only seem similar but underlying mechanisms might be different.

Aggressive behaviour – humans
Fromm (’73) – two forms of aggression: benign (animal alike; impulsive act if threatened), e.g. parent defending child from threat, and malign (not instinctive; evil), e.g. gang war, eradication of Jews from Germany during WWII. Nelson (’74) – factors affecting aggression:

a) Process of learning: Bandura – observation
b) Structural causes: social rules or norms – without them, aggression more likely to be widespread c) Psychological causes: highlights failings of biological approach; in animal kingdom, the aggression is directed towards the actual enemy, whereas in humans the cause might be due to personal reasons (mood) and/or situational factors, e.g. overcrowding, heat, noise, temp. Aggression by humans – adaptive and useful; but not ritualistic – through the use of weapons -> destructive. Rooted deep desire to harm each other, not part of ritualistic system.

Evolutionary explanations
Advancement in weapon technology – no longer need to be in close physical proximity to the enemy; appeasement or distress signals that might stop the acts of aggression can no longer be applied. Aggression – result of sexual competition; males compete for females to ensure they can pass their genes; aggressive behaviour necessary for reproductive success. Dominant image of man – ‘provider of valuable resources’, i.e. in practice – men need to be more assertive and aggressive. Men evolved living in groups – define boundaries of group behaviour, formulate the ‘in’ group and the ‘out’ group; the mentality ‘us’ and ‘them’ leads to aggression; led to xenophobia – need to feel socially dominant, spur conflict, aggression etc. Australopithecus – small stumpy legs; useful in male-male combat – supports evolutionary explanations. Female-to-female aggression – less physical, more verbal, reducing attractiveness of the opposition, gives evolutionary advantage to the name-caller.

Group display of aggression
Freud – individual’s mind-set different to the group’s one – merging of minds based on a common opinion; enthusiasm of being in a group leads to reduced inhibitions. LeBon (1896) – crowd behaviour result of individuals’ minds; atmosphere causes contagion – members fall under the influence of a collective mind; take on suggestions from a group and imitate actions; group behaviour taken up quickly, because of the atmosphere; this might lead to circular reaction, emotions spread/copied and intensified; this can explain the social unrest. Convergence theory – motive behind group behaviour – converges into one location of similar-minded people. Turner (’57) – emergent norm theory (ENT) – individual no norms to follow, because situation is unique – see what others do, base own behaviour on that. If one person's behaviour is distinctive, then gets attention; behaviour gradually taken as norm; crowds are not passive – logically thinking mass of individuals; hence crowd behaviour can sometimes be unpredictable, as it depends on the norms taken by the group. Value-added theory (VAT):

- VAT: encourage formation of group over time
- Cultural bias – Smelser, Western researcher, ethnocentric – one fits all Stages
1. Structural conduciveness
2. Structural strain
3. Growth and spread of generalised belief
4. Precipitating factors.
5. Mobilising the collective for action
6. Reaction of agencies of social control
Society not well regulated – change individual’s view of appropriate behaviour; assessment of one’s own needs; if society offers incentives are rewards that interests an individual, then selfishness and self-prevail might outweigh the respect for others. Human behaviour is a reflection of societal regulation; Sztompka (2004) - result of logical and systematic evolution thorough stages of development. Evaluation:

Freud provided very early description of crowd behaviour + foundation for others to work on; BUT – he did not follow principles of science, i.e. did not use hypothetetico-deductive method in his researches. LeBon – does group have a ‘soul’? Do groups take on a ‘life on their own’? Smelser suggested that certain conditions and situation might contribute to formation of a group. Convergence theory – group behaviour rational and logical; contrary to LeBon – contagion irrational. Turner and Killian – ENT – explains most crowd behaviours – but how exactly are the norms adapted? Theory does not take into account non-verbal processes, hence can be viewed as incomplete. Smelser – VAT – logical – does not take into account complexities of the crowd behaviour; hard to test – crowd behaviour occurs at great speed; difficult to anticipate; covers broad geographic area; few traces; hard to interview the members; imposes a risk of injuring the observer. Sport crowds

Basketball game:
Convergent theory – gathering of fans
Contagion – booing on the referee
Emergent norms – standing when anthem is being played
No single theory that can explain all the behaviours of sport crowd. Lynch mobs:
Black people stigmatised as ‘niggers’; not seen as individuals. No aggression: Cassidy (2007) - Mela – month-long Hindu festival – 50million people; crowd behaves well; increased generosity, support was noted; crowd behaviour can promote good, non-aggressive behaviour; does not always lead to occurrence of aggression. - Naturalistic observation in accordance to BPS ethical guidelines; public place – people expected to be observed

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