Theories of Aggression: Understanding the Roots of Violent Behavior

Theories of Aggression: Understanding the Roots of Violent Behavior


There have been several cases reported about the instance of aggression. Like violence and conflict, conspiracy to kill and even actually killing Sometimes. Factors that lead to such situations are mostly discovered to be communal rivalry, stress, societal pressures and individual circumstances.

Several cases of mob violence, street crimes, and other kinds of aggression have brought to our attention the necessity to address the root cause of aggression. It is essential to promote a safe and secure space for everyone. If you check the data, you will be deeply disturbed by the number of cases and the bizarre incidents that have taken place in the span of 4 to 5 years in our country. It is both gut-wrenching and profoundly shameful. There is no doubt that people have been losing their sanity and consciousness and can go to any extent to massage their egos. 

How do we define Aggression? 

Aggression can be described as one’s behaviour to intentionally cause harm or injury to another individual or object. There can be various forms of it that are still reported as aggression like physical force or violence, verbal abuse, threatening somebody, insulting somebody, yelling at someone and passive aggression that includes indirect ways of showing hostility and anger like people often ignoring or avoiding someone, giving silent treatment.

Read More: 9 Healthy Ways to Channel Anger and Find Inner Peace

Why do we need to understand Aggression?

There is a rising need to understand and identify all the forms of manifested aggression as all are equally harmful. It’s unwise to overlook subtle forms of aggression or minor disagreements. It is more effective and beneficial to identify and address these issues early on to prevent hostile and harmful behaviours.

We must educate people to express themselves more constructively, communicate effectively, and confront issues calmly, rather than resorting to aggressive thoughts. Aggression prevails among young adults too. How cruel things will be if this continues? It’s high time our education system prioritized teaching emotion management, healthy communication, and ways to channel energy from a very young age.

Read More: Psychology Behind Relationships

Although the message has always been about understanding all your emotions, being mindful of them, and managing them wisely, studying all forms of aggression seems more like a necessity for the welfare of our social peace and harmony. If we can recognize the anger-inducing factors, it may help us improve our social relationships. Think of it on greater levels we can manifest peaceful relationships between communities, reducing conflict and violence. The emphasis is on creating a safer and more positive environment for everyone. 

1. Biological Theories

Konrad Lorenz, Nikolas Tinbergen and John Bowlby are some of the researchers who contributed to this biological theory of aggression. Through this theory, they tried to propose the idea that aggressive behaviour is a result of our biological factors like genetics, brain structure and neurotransmitters. Let us know more about it. 

  • Genetics: there have been several researches that support the thought that genes have an impact on aggression levels of a person. For example: some gene variations concerning serotonin receptors are proven to be linked with aggressive tendencies. If someone already has the genes that favour these traits then they are more likely to show aggressive behaviour. 
  • Brain structure: It is recorded in studies that specific brain regions regulate our emotions and impulse control. The amygdala and prefrontal cortex are known to affect aggression. It’s said that if one goes through any damage or abnormalities in the specific areas then he or she will be showcasing increased aggression. 
  • Neurotransmitters: We have certain chemical messengers in our brain such as dopamine and serotonin that are responsible for making us feel good and happy. It’s proven that low levels of serotonin can be an indication of increased aggression. On the other hand, high levels of dopamine that are linked to reward and pleasure are known to bring aggressive tendencies. 
  • Hormones: Similar to the influence of neurotransmitters, there is a hormone known to have a similar effect: testosterone. Testosterone, typically associated with males, has been frequently linked to aggression. For instance: it’s studied that in adolescent males, with the rise in testosterone levels, there is an increase in aggressive behaviour. 

2. Psychological Theories

One of the psychological theories is the frustration-aggression hypothesis. It tries to draw our attention to the fact that our frustration leads us to show aggressive/hostile behaviour. When you face inability or hurdles in achieving a desired milestone and are incapable of fulfilling a need you are likely to experience frustration, which is responsible for leading you to aggressive behaviour to release that frustration. Here is how we can understand the relationship between frustration and aggression.

Frustration: all of us have been through such situations of repetitive downfall or failure where we get frustrated. This may lead us to become more aggressive than usual, increasing our tendency to resort to violence.

Aggression: Just as said above, the hypothesis states that when we experience frustration we tend to respond to most things with aggression as our way to feel less unpleasant due to our underlying frustration. That aggression is most likely directed towards the stimuli that are inducing frustration. 

Like when somebody is stuck in traffic and has an emergency to attend to at home, the frustration of being late May induce anger. People are often seen honking excessively or abusing verbally. 

Another Psychological theory is the social learning theory which was put forth by Albert Bandura. It tries to draw our attention to the fact that aggression is a learned behaviour. From a very young age, our children start observing what’s happening around them and their schema starts to record it and feel it’s normal to behave like our elders do so they are more likely to show aggressive behaviour if they are being parented in an abusive and hostile environment. 

Albert Bandura experimented – The famous Bobo doll experiment. This showed the very phenomenon of children observing aggressive behaviour and responding the same way towards the Bobo dolls. Further, there is this 3rd theory under biological theories, known as cognitive theories that tries to say that our thoughts and perceptions shape our aggression. There is something called as Hostile attribution bias, where we tend to think that somebody is being negative to us. We interpret their neutral behaviour as aggressive or bad on purpose towards us. 

Like somebody accidentally bumped into you and you are thinking that he did it on purpose as an act of aggression, which may cause you to overdo a more aggressive activity in return. It tries to say that it’s our wrong interpretation and perception that is making us behave aggressively towards others. 

Read More: The Psychology of Self-Perception

3. Social and Environmental Theories

The third and last one is the social and environmental theories of aggression that try to emphasize a group of factors that are affecting us to behave aggressively. It takes into consideration our day-to-day interaction with our family members, friends and other societal and cultural interactions that we experience through media. 

For instance:- Living in a toxic and violent household might make you hostile. Being in bad company, especially in adolescence, may affect an individual’s outlook and shape aggression levels because of peer pressure or to fit in the group. Whereas environmental factors such as conflicts shown through media, and living in unsafe localities, may make you aggressive and hostile. Such factors tend to create a sense of all these practices being usual, normal and justified, pushing you to do the same. 

Our cultural norms also contribute to it in a huge percentage. Our society promotes a collectivistic or group livelihood where we face several forms of conflicts, divide-and-rule conspiracies, and other issues leading to aggressive and deviant behaviours in the youth. Honour killing by families is a huge example. The reservation schemes also create a sense of conflict these days with increased competition in entrances, making them hate or catcall each other, leading to severe hostility and violence. Another reason under social and environmental theories is the environmental triggers. 

A slight uneasiness due to the weather tends to ruin our routines and our usual productivity. The scorching heat, the noise, and overcrowding often make us vulnerable enough to respond to every other thing in an aggressive manner. Even researchers have recorded such observations that environmental triggers less contribute to our increased aggression. Noise is one of the stressors, making you annoyed, right from the beginning of your day, escalating your aggression. 

We come through a lot of factors that are responsible for provoking our aggressive behaviours but not one factor is solely responsible. Human behaviour is a consequence of a collection of factors altogether so it is hard to generalize that this particular thing makes everybody equally hostile and destructive. All of these play a considerable role in pushing us towards choosing violence over patience.

References +
  • Psychology, P. (2023, September 15). 3 Theories of aggression (Psychology explained). Practical Psychology.
  • (PDF) psychological theories of aggression: Principles and application to practice. (n.d.-p).
  • Psychology. Vaia. (n.d.).
  • (PDF) theories of aggressive behavior. (n.d.-r).

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