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How are you Affected by Aggression

Updated on April 14, 2018
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Devika enjoys sharing her work with a friendly community. Writing is a big part of her life. Online work has improved her lifestyle.

Aggression affects many people around the World

There is no universally agreed upon definition of aggression.

One of the more common ones used by social psychologists, that it is any form of behavior that is intended to harm an individual.

To either injure some person, oneself, or an object.

To test whether you can identify other aggressive actions based on this definition, read the following vignette and try to identify five acts of aggression.

A thief fires a gun at a man he trying to rob, but the bullet misses the mark and the man is uninjured.

Panicked, the man accidentally knocks down a young girl as he flees the scene, and she badly cuts her knee on the pavement.

Later, the girl screams in pain as a doctor puts five stitches in her knee to stop the bleeding.

Upon finishing, the doctor asks the girl how badly it hurts. Still crying and now very angry, she grabs his mustache and yanks with all her might and sneers, ''That's how much it hurts!''

The next day, the thief is arrested and his cellmate verbally betrayers him for being such an inept burglar.

Depressed ad angry, the thief smashes his fist into the concrete cell wall, fracturing three fingers.

While in the infirmary being treated for his injury the thief angrily destroys a medicine cabinet.

  • Can you correctly identify the five aggressive acts in this injury-filled story?

  • What about the thief shooting but missing his intended victim?

No harm, no aggression.

Even though the bullet missed its mark, this is still an aggressive action because it was the intention of hurting the child or anyone else.

Neither is the behavior of the doctor treating the girl's wound an aggressive action.

Although his actions caused pain and he performed those actions intentionally, the goal was to help the girl recover from her previous injury.

The man and the doctor did not perform any aggressive actions, the little girl did. In pulling the doctor's moustache, she intentionally tried to seek retribution for the hurt she believed he caused.

  • What about the thief's cellmate?

The psychological harm intended in such verbal abuse qualified this aggressive action.

The fourth instance of aggression involved the prisoner’s self- inflicted injury; intentional actions that cause harm to one are considered aggressive, even if they are impulsive.

Finally, aggression can be directed against inanimate objects, as was when the thief destroyed the medicine cabinet.

  • Instrumental Aggression

An intentional use of harmful behavior to an individual can achieve some other goal. In the robbery attempt, the thief used aggression as an instrument to achieve his real goal, which was obtaining the victim's money.

The aggression that occurs in a military context is also often instrumental in nature. Here the principal goal may be either to defend one's own territory or to confiscate the enemy's land.

As a general rule, aggressive acts carried out with the objective of gaining material, psychological, or social benefits all fit our instrumental definition.

  • Hostile Aggression

Triggered by anger, and the goal of the intentionally harmful behavior is simply to cause injury or death to the victim. To kill those who had angered you. The aggressor’s principal goal is to cause injury to another person or thing.

In thinking about instrumental and hostile aggression, it is important to keep in mind how they differ.

Instrumental aggression is motivated by the anticipation of rewards or the avoidance of punishment.

In that sense, it can be thought of as being relatively deliberate and rational. On the other hand, hostile aggression is not really motivated by the anticipation of rewards or the avoidance of punishment. Even though these may indeed be ultimate consequences of the aggressive act.

Instead, this type of aggression is often impulsive and irrational.

There is a goal but it is simply the desire to cause harm to the victim.

Instrumental aggressor tends to use proactive force in a cool and collected manner to attain their objectives. Many robbers and school-yard bullies fit this category.

In contrast, hostile aggressors tend to use reactive force in a highly emotional and impulsive manner.

Their crimes often entail excessive use of violence to their tempers getting out of hand.

Hostile aggressors are, especially likely to perceive danger in their world and to respond to ambiguous stimuli with aggression.

Instrumental and hostile aggression is often useful many aggressive actions cannot be neatly placed into only one of the categories:

For example:

A child may angrily hit another child who has taken her favorite toy, and then she may retrieve the toy while the victim cries.

The motives underlying this aggression are both the infliction of pain (hostile aggression) and the recovery of the favored toy (instrumental aggression).

In such instances, no clear distinctions can be made between hostile and instrumental aggression.

In other instances, aggression might start out instrumentally, yet then turn hostile.

Like a soldiers cool and methodical firing of a weapon at a hidden enemy may turn into impulsive rage when one of his comrades is killed.

  • Gender and Personality Moderate the Expression of Aggression

Some people tend to be more prone to aggressive outbursts than others.

  • Gender

It is believed that men are more aggressive than women; the answer to this is both yes and no.

Males and females do differ in one important kind of aggression: physical aggression.

A male is more likely to engage in aggression that produces pain or physical injury.

A gender difference in willingness to cause physical injury is more pronounced.

In contrast men and women are very similar to one another in their verbal aggression. and in expressing feelings of anger.

Gender differences are considerably smaller than what gender stereotypes suggest, women and men do appear to have different social representations of their physical aggression.

Women tend to view their aggression as being stress-induced and precipitated by a loss of self-control that erupts into an antisocial act.

Their expressions of aggression were uniformly seen as a negative experience.

Perceived aggression is a means of exerting control over others and reclaiming power and self-esteem. Unlike women, men often believed that resorting to physical violence was a positive experience or way of thinking.

Physical aggression may mean that the more spontaneous and unplanned behaviors typical of hostile aggression are more descriptive of the antisocial actions of women.

While the more planned and calculated actions of instrumental aggression are more descriptive of male aggression.

  • Indirect Aggression

A form of social manipulation whereby, the aggressor attempts to harm another person without a face-to-face encounter.

Gossiping, spreading bad, or false stories about someone. When telling others not to associate a person, and revealing someone's secrets are examples of indirect aggression, and are more likely than boys to use indirect aggression.

  • Personality

The three personality traits most consistently related to aggression are irritability, the tendency to explode at the slightest provocation.

Rumination, individuals tend to keep feelings of anger following provocation.

The emotional susceptibility, one feels uneasy to experience feelings of discomfort and inadequacy.

Highly aggressive people have a hard time controlling their emotions: they not only have quick tempers, but they also stew in their own angry juices following a confrontation.

Aggression is one means by which some people seek to maintain or restore their self-esteem.

For many years, it was thought that only low self-esteem individuals were susceptible to these types of aggressive outbursts.

However, it now appears that aggression is more commonly a result of threats to highly favorable views of the self. It is most likely to occur when a person’s high self-esteem is fragile and unstable.

Apparently, in these instances, aggression is a defensive reaction to avoid having to make any downward revision of self-esteem.

  • Biological Factors Influence Aggressive Behavior

Beyond focusing on how aggressive tendencies may have been shaped over hundreds of thousands of generations.

Individual aggressive tendencies are inherited and whether hormonal fluctuations influence later aggressive responses.

An example of inherited influence of aggression, twins who share exactly the same genetic material.

Identical twins, have more similar aggressive tendencies than twins who share only fifty percent of the same genes, the fraternal twins.

Parents treat identical twins more similarly than fraternal twins and thus it is difficult to distinguish between biological and environmental determinants of aggression.

Stress and nutrition can actually cause certain genes to become activated or deactivated, resulting in even identical twins not having the same active genetic makeup.

Hormonal Activity

  • Hormones influence human aggression

People who are institutionalized for attempted suicide, self-directed aggression, or extreme aggressiveness had lower than average levels of serotonin.

A hormone that is associated with the ability to control aggressive impulses.

Some men have higher than normal levels of the hormone testosterone making them highly aggressive men.

Tennis players (males) the winners’ testosterone levels increased after a match, while losers’ hormonal levels decreased.

There is no simple casual relationship between hormone levels and aggression in humans, or other animals.

Heightened testosterone levels may make aggression more likely the same. Aggression or even non-aggressive competition may cause changes in testosterone levels.

  • Aggression is a reaction to negative affect

Japanese are world famous for their politeness. One notable exception to this courteous behavior is a two-hundred-year-old event that takes place just before midnight on New Year's Eve in Ashikaga, a city fifty miles north of Tokyo.

In what outsiders might consider to be a very strange festival, people walk in a procession up a dark mountain road to the Saishoji Temple, screaming curses at those who have frustrated them during the previous twelve months.

‘‘You are an idiot!''

''Give me a raise!''

''My teacher is stupid!''

Words of blame are shouted out of hostility and anger would almost never be directed at the real sources of the Japanese’s frustration, participants believe the screaming is beneficial.

Is such behavior really beneficial to people?

Does it reduce aggressive tendencies?

The Frustration-Aggression Hypothesis Asserts that Aggression is always the Product of Frustration

  • Frustration causes aggression

The first proposition was that frustration will always elicit the drive to attack others.

The second one, every act of aggression could be traced to some previous frustration this essentially meant that all aggression is of the hostile variety.

The third proposition, engaging in aggression causes catharsis, which is the reduction in the aggressive drive following an aggressive act.

Frustration does not always produce an aggressive drive; it can produce an inclination to show aggression when the person believes the hindrance was unfair and deliberate.

If someone catches your heel and sends you tumbling to the ground, you are less likely to hold it against them. If you believe it was an accident rather than deliberate.

Frustration the root of all aggression, but frustration is only one cause among many causes of aggression.

Catharsis reflects a common belief that people can purge themselves of powerful emotions by ''letting off steam'' or getting it off their chests,''

Generally, frustration increases aggression except when participants were told that fatigue, and emotional strain caused the clumsiness of individuals.

One should convey these feelings calmly and clearly without being harmful, but not everyone can do without harming another.

  • Alcohol Assumption increases the Likelihood of Aggression

Weapons can trigger aggression outbursts, in those who already angry, but alcohol assumption causes people to become more easily angered and hostile.

In many countries around the world there is a strong correlation between alcohol intoxication and a host of different types of aggression. This includes, domestic abuse, assault, rape and homicide.

Those who rink beverages which contain enough alcohol to make them legally intoxicated tend to behave more aggressively.

Or can respond strongly to provocation than do persons, who consume nonalcoholic drinks.

  • Why does the consumption of alcohol increase aggression?

Alcohol provides a direct biochemical stimulus to aggression. The alcohol weakens people's restraints against aggression.

When provoked people who are drunk are much less attentive than who are sober to such inhibiting cues as the provocateurs' intent. The possible negative consequences of violence.

The alcohol doesn't influence participants’ reactions to their competitors' explicit aggression or nonaggression signals. It t did interfere with their understanding of subtle aggressive signals.

You must of herd people excusing a drunken individual's verbal aggression by saying,

''It's the liquor talking.''

It indicates that the alcohol is to be blamed and he reason for misbehaving.

  • Summary

Aggression occurs because it has been either rewarded in the past or the aggressor has observed someone else. Being rewarded for an aggressive act and is now imitating these actions.

Exposure to television and other media violence does teach and encourage children and adults to engaging antisocial modes of conduct.

Aggression is also learned and encouraged in a culture of honor, which is a belief system that prepares men to protect their reputation by resorting to violence.

Aggression can be controlled

Aggression can be Controlled

What influences Hostile Aggression?

See results

© 2013 Devika Primić


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    • DDE profile imageAUTHOR

      Devika Primić 

      4 years ago from Dubrovnik, Croatia

      moonlake so right and thanks for commenting have a good day.

    • moonlake profile image


      4 years ago from America

      Interesting hub. I have never ran into anyone that I thought of as aggressive.

    • DDE profile imageAUTHOR

      Devika Primić 

      4 years ago from Dubrovnik, Croatia

      CraftytotheCore so true about aggression most people are affected by anger and fail to cope or handle situations thanks again

    • CraftytotheCore profile image


      4 years ago

      Very interesting DDE. I have had incidents with people who are aggressive and it's not fun. I know of some that take things way too far. For example, today people complain about cyber-bullies. But there are people without the internet who take things to extreme levels. They don't know when to quit. They end up hurting others.

    • DDE profile imageAUTHOR

      Devika Primić 

      4 years ago from Dubrovnik, Croatia

      rajan jolly thank you for commenting have a lovely weekend

    • rajan jolly profile image

      Rajan Singh Jolly 

      4 years ago from From Mumbai, presently in Jalandhar,INDIA.

      Great read. Verbal aggression is as destructive as physical aggression and it is best to restrain both.

    • DDE profile imageAUTHOR

      Devika Primić 

      4 years ago from Dubrovnik, Croatia

      lovedoctor926 one of my great followers and commenters thanks for the votes up useful and for sharing my hubs

    • profile image


      4 years ago

      In the first example, the man accidentally knocks down a girl who happened to be in the wrong place and the wrong time and then ends up fleeing from the scene. The girl, in turn, grabs his mustache and yanks it.. another form of aggression but in this case it is justified because his actions caused her anger and pain. All of these are aggressive actions: cellmate verbally betrates him for being such an inept burglar. Depressed ad angry, the thief smashes his fist into the concrete cell wall, fracturing three fingers. While in the infirmary being treated for his injury the thief angrily destroys a medicine cabinet. You're right, offending someone and even spreading rumors about them is another type of aggression as well as alcohol, which can also lead to people doing stupid things. Voted up useful. thanks for sharing

    • DDE profile imageAUTHOR

      Devika Primić 

      4 years ago from Dubrovnik, Croatia

      pstraubie48 thanks for sharing your views I so appreciate you stopping by

    • pstraubie48 profile image

      Patricia Scott 

      4 years ago from sunny Florida

      Thanks for sharing all of this information. I have known aggression from others...primarily aggressive drivers. They are pretty scary and I do whatever I can to remove myself from their pathway.

      Angels are on the way to you this morning ps

    • DDE profile imageAUTHOR

      Devika Primić 

      4 years ago from Dubrovnik, Croatia

      thumbi7 thanks for taking the time and commenting on my hubs have a great day.

    • thumbi7 profile image

      JR Krishna 

      5 years ago from India

      I never knew there were so many different types of aggression. I do agree with you that exposure to television and media worsens aggression in children.

    • DDE profile imageAUTHOR

      Devika Primić 

      5 years ago from Dubrovnik, Croatia

      Thanks MsDora so glad you came by have nice day

    • MsDora profile image

      Dora Weithers 

      5 years ago from The Caribbean

      Thanks for the explanations and illustrations. One of your better hubs, I think!

    • DDE profile imageAUTHOR

      Devika Primić 

      5 years ago from Dubrovnik, Croatia

      Great comment thanks

    • Mhatter99 profile image

      Martin Kloess 

      5 years ago from San Francisco

      Thank you for this. I have been blessed with almost a total absence since the oil company.

    • DDE profile imageAUTHOR

      Devika Primić 

      5 years ago from Dubrovnik, Croatia

      Faith Reaper so glad you came by and shared your views here and a thoughtful one too have a lovely day.

    • DDE profile imageAUTHOR

      Devika Primić 

      5 years ago from Dubrovnik, Croatia

      Jackie Lynnley thanks for the brief comment glad you came by

    • DDE profile imageAUTHOR

      Devika Primić 

      5 years ago from Dubrovnik, Croatia

      rose-the planner thanks for the vote up and so agree with your comment aggression is every where and in many cases is uncontrollable have lovely day

    • DDE profile imageAUTHOR

      Devika Primić 

      5 years ago from Dubrovnik, Croatia

      joanveronica so glad to read a comment from you from another part of the world and thanks for sharing your views here

    • DDE profile imageAUTHOR

      Devika Primić 

      5 years ago from Dubrovnik, Croatia

      Alphadogg16 being taught to be aggressive is totally wrong but like you said when you get older you realize it is wrong glad you feel that way now, and i tis important to control aggression thanks for stopping by have a great day.

    • DDE profile imageAUTHOR

      Devika Primić 

      5 years ago from Dubrovnik, Croatia

      billybuc thanks for taking the time and commenting on my hub I appreciate you sharing your opinion here.

    • Faith Reaper profile image

      Faith Reaper 

      5 years ago from southern USA

      Very insightful piece here on aggression. I just cannot take aggressive personalities. I am mindful when it comes to myself as I have a little scripture taped to my phone at work, "A soft words turns away wrath, but a harsh answer stirs up wrath." Proverbs 15:1

    • Jackie Lynnley profile image

      Jackie Lynnley 

      5 years ago from The Beautiful South

      Interesting write on the different ways of aggression. ^

    • rose-the planner profile image

      rose-the planner 

      5 years ago from Toronto, Ontario-Canada

      I thought this was a very insightful article outlining the many forms of aggression. Personally, I do not tolerate aggressive behavior or tactics. Unfortunately, there is far too much aggression out there today that is unacceptable and much of it shows up on many social media platforms. It appears that aggressive behavior has found a new home through various outlets. Being bullied, for example, in the school yard or workplace is no longer good enough. For some, it is far more appealing to share their aggressive behavior towards others with thousands of other people. We can actually see much of this behavior on various forums as well. It really is unfortunate. Thank you for sharing. (Voted Up) -Rose

    • joanveronica profile image

      Joan Veronica Robertson 

      5 years ago from Concepcion, Chile

      I agree with Bill, I hate agression in any form. I have mostly had contact with verbal agression, and that can be very harmful. I prefer to avoid contact if at all possible. I'm too old to go around fighting the verbal agressions I could receive. The younger generations will certainly need to clean up this planet on lots of counts, I think!

    • Alphadogg16 profile image

      Kevin W 

      5 years ago from Texas

      Very Nice Hub DDE, personally I was always taught to be aggressive, survival of the fittest, you either kill or be killed. This was instilled in everything I did, whether it be sports, Life, etc. As you mature, you learn, or you should learn rather to control your aggressiveness and not use it with malicious intent unless its truly necessary.

    • billybuc profile image

      Bill Holland 

      5 years ago from Olympia, WA

      I do not like aggressive people and I tend to stand up against it. There is something about someone trying to exert their will over me that sets me on edge immediately. :) Good job here my friend.


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