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A Level Psychology - Unit 3 - Aggression (III) - Institutional Aggression

Updated on July 18, 2012

Part III of our look into the Psychology of Aggression is here. Today we look at 'Institutional Aggression', specifically aggression in prisons. As usual, the information has been taken from 2012 A Level (High school) Psychology textbooks and summarised for revision and fellow Hubbers. This will probably be the weakest of this series of Hubs but that is partly down to this being the weakness section of the A Level course.
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AO1 - The description

  • The Importation model (interpersonal) states that those who come into institutions bring own social histories and past into their new environment. It says this is what influences behaviour 'on the inside'. Thus, aggressive behaviour is 'imported'.
  • The deprivation model (situational) says that institutional violence is a product of stressful situations. Factors such as crowding, fear, frustration and staff experience are claimed to be the most important ones in causing aggressive behaviour in an institution.
  • Hazing is the bullying of 'newbies' by seniors to maintain 'traditional' order. A survey in the US found that of 11,000 inmates, half had experiences hazing. Zimbardo noticed that of 60 hazing deaths, only 3 women (an indication of gender limitations of this explanations).

AO2 - Experimental Evidence

  • Burges conducted a survey and found that trainee and inexperienced nurses were more likely to experience threats than more experienced nurses. This can be applied to prison staff an supports the deprivation model's explanation.
  • Harer investigated 58 prisons. He noticed that Black inmates had higher levels of violent behaviour, lower levels of drug and alcohol problems. These stats were similar to racial differences in US society during the time of investigation, suggesting behaviour from out of the prison, was brought into the prison.
  • McCorkle found violence was used to relieve a prisoners feeling of deprivation. Overcrowding, lack of privacy and a lack of meaningful activity were important in influencingpeer violence. However evidence is inconsistent. Nijman found that increasing prison cell space didn't ease violence. This would suggest so other factors were more important.
  • McCorkle's interviews found that hazing was essential to maintaining status and non-violence inmates were perceived as weak and vulnerable.
  • Esses - ''Social dominance orientation'' predicted the attitude and behaviour of inmates. Those with high SDO tend to dehumanise refuges and racist ideas which are reinforced through media, legitimising myths.


AO3 - Evaluation and Ethics

  • The R.W.A. found 83 deaths and 26,000 assaults in USA prisons. Thus, any explanation and research in this, has real world applications and usefulness.
  • Gender differences must be accounted for. Women tend to be less violent in prisons than men, despite sharing a similar what is the reason for the difference? Gender differences must be encompassed and accounted for in explanations.
  • There are issues with classification. Only 1/5 students surveyed agreed with researchers definitions of hazing. Thus, experiments and research needs to have accounted for these sorts of inconsistencies.
  • There are issues involving the prevention of violence. By not getting involved, the violence may continue unabated. By getting involved, the violence may not last as long, but may be more severe. Take Rwandan, were 8,000 people were killed a day after international intervention was announced.

If you wish to start at the very beginning of this series of Hubs, Part I (a look at Social Learning Theory) can be found here:
To stay updated on future Hub's on the topics of aggression, eating disorders, addiction, schizophrenia as well as many others, follow me Hazzabanana8 on Hubpages.


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