AGGRESSION

Studies, How to Reduce It and Research Limitations

Studies, How to Reduce It and Research Limitations


What studies have been made on aggression?

Raine (1997) wanted to know if there were differences in the brains of murderers and non-murderers. He did this my giving 41 murderers a PET scan, which shows levels of activity in each section of the brain. He found that murderers had lower levels of activity in the prefrontal cortex, which lead Raine to conclude that when this part of the brain is not functioning as it should, levels of aggression can increase hugely.

Young et al. (1959) set out to discover if hormones have an effect on levels of aggressive behaviour. To do this he injected pregnant rhesus monkeys with testosterone and monitored the behaviour of the offspring after they were born. He found that the females behaved very much like the male monkeys. They were far more physical in their playing and even fought with the male monkeys in a bid to climb the social hierarchy. Young et al concluded that hormones play a role in causing aggressive forms of behaviour.

Megargee and Mendelsohn (1962) wanted to know if personality type had an influence on levels of aggression. They did this by giving convicted criminals guilty of highly aggressive crimes a personality test. What many of them had in common was a period of time leading up to the crime in which they were ‘over controlled’ and their repressed anger eventually built up to a point where it could no longer be controlled. The researchers concluded that anger needs to be vented safely and frequently to prevent uncontrollable outbursts of aggression.

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How can we reduce aggressive behaviour?

Biological methods

Drugs: Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) is controlled to some extent by the drug Ritalin which also helps to reduce the aggressive behaviour of those who suffer from it. It does this my stimulating the prefrontal cortex. It is argued that if Ritalin can do this then a drug can be developed to control all aggression.

Psychosurgery: This involves using a probe to destroy the part of the brain that is not working properly. This has to be very precise and can have potentially very harmful consequences. This kind of surgery is also very expensive and requires a hugely skilful surgeon. Psychosurgery is used usually as a last resort.

Psychodynamic methods: Freud suggested that aggressive energy could be channelled into less harmful kinds of behaviour. Aggression could be vented through sports, for example, or even diverted into something artistic like writing poetry or performing on stage. Had he been alive today he might even have argued that watching violence on television is good for us because this would help us to experience catharsis. Catharsis involves putting yourself through great emotion in order to get impurities out of our system.

Frustration-aggression theory: If frustration is seen as the cause of our aggression, then we should simply avoid situations which cause frustration. This is of course a difficult thing to achieve in reality. Almost any situation can lead to frustration in some way or another.

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Limitations

These men were all potentially dangerous people and it may not be fair to apply conclusions drawn from this narrow sample to the rest of the population.

Charlton et al. (2000) set out to discover if the introduction of television into a community would cause the children to behave more aggressively. In this study the behaviour of the children was observed for two years after the residents of the island of St. Helena started to receive television transmissions. During this time children will have watched the aggressive onscreen behaviour of certain role models. After two years no increase in aggressive behaviour was observed.

Conclusions and limitations It was concluded that watching aggressive role models doesn’t in itself lead to children imitating aggressive kinds of behaviour. The ecological validity of the experiment was high because the children were observed over a long period of time in their natural environment. The weakness of the experiment lies in the fact that the children weren’t observed for an equal amount of time prior to the arrival of television to their community. This may have lead to unfair or inaccurate comparisons being made.