The theories on Violence

in psychology •  last year 

Social Reality: Violence, Power, and Change
The theories on Violence

In the last post we examined the concepts of Violence, aggression, and aggressiveness.
Now, we will talk about the aggressive behavior at the biological level and the psycho-emotional aspect conjugated with the social learning of Violence.

Is Aggression one instinct ?

Ethology (the science of animal behavior) tried to find the biological basis of the aggressive behavior as a natural instinct.
We can't control aggressive behavior because it is necessary for survival as well as for self-affirmation.
This instinct, has an internal latent potential, that by social interaction can tend to accumulate and can it be revealed in human contact when the right triggers are present.

Aggression is a social conduct

For Freud aggressiveness can be a part of the sadistic sexual function and it is connected to the individual fight for survival and self-affirmation.
Freud in his theory of the psychic dualism of the opposition between "drives of life" (aimed at self-preservation), and the "death drive"(toward death and self-destruction), in which the former try to dilute the latter.
"The total repression of man’s aggressive tendencies is not an issue; what we may try is to divert it into a channel other than that of warfare." - Sigmund Freud
The "death drive" can also turn to the outside world, to destroy, possess, or exercise power over the "Other".

"The tendency to aggression is an innate, independent, instinctual disposition in man... it constitutes the powerful obstacle to culture." - Sigmund Freud

Is Aggression a product of frustration?

In this theory the aggressive behavior always has in its origin a frustration that is the trigger of any form of aggressive conduct. The degree of the frustration is proportional to the level of aggression actions.
Berkovitz later showed that frustration only generates aggressive behavior if the situation may involve elements that trigger it.
Thus there is no direct connection between frustration and aggression, but that their stimulation is dependent on external conditions, which provoke an emotional reaction such as anger or rage.
"Anger is the enemy of non-violence and pride is a monster that swallows it up" - Mahatma Gandhi

According to Berkowitz e Le Page, for example, the existence of guns in an environment facilitates the emergence of aggressive behaviors.
Harris in 1974 made an experiment to show that frustration and aggression are connected to the situation, in a way that the intensity of frustration is awaken related to his significance to the individual.
The experiment used men and women as "actors", and they tried to jump on queues of people waiting in restaurants, movie tickets or supermarkets.
In 50% of the cases, the "actors" jumped to the second place in the line of people.
In the other 50% of the cases, the "actors" jumped to the twelveth place in the line of people.
The results showed that verbal reactions were stronger in the front line of the queue.
The intensity of aggression was dependent on the genre because reactions towards women tended to be less aggressive.

They found out that the effects of frustration and the insensitivity of aggression were proportional to the arbitration and unpredictability of the situation.
For example, the feeling of injustice can be the trigger of aggressiveness.
The investigation in the emotional aspects showed that the probability of aggression when the situation is a trigger of a dominant response or conditioned by the way the behavior is socially accepted, from physical pain and attack or psychological injuries that are very painful too.

Is Aggression based in social Learning?

When aggression is supported by positive reinforcement it facilitates the learning of aggressive behavior and negative rewards can decrease aggressiveness in an environment of children.
Social aggressive models are the cause of the children internalization of Violence.
In 1977 the results of experiments showed that boys are more prone to violent behavior and both sexes are more influenced by the masculine models than feminine models.
There should be more recent studies to see if these proportions still hold in today's society.

Aggression in a society is a function of cultural aggressive models imposed by socialization.
In the next post we will talk about violence and the factors that influence aggressive behavior.

"Non-violence and cowardice do not match. I can imagine a man armed to the teeth who in the background is a coward. The possession of weapons implies an element of fear, if not even cowardice. But true non-violence is an impossibility without the possession of an inflexible fearlessness" - Mahatma Gandhi.
Last posts in this series:
Social Reality: Violence, Power and Change
An Introduction to Violence
The Concepts of Violence, Aggression, and Aggressiveness
The Theories of Violence - this post

Articles from the next series of posts about Social Reality, Violence, Power and Change:

The influencers of Violence
The rise of Today's Violence
What is Power?
The Nature of Power
The Dynamics of Power
The Effects and Consequences of Power
Change and Culture
The Theories and conceptualization of Change
Factors determining Change
The ways of Change
Social Change

References of books consulted:

Les concepts fondamentaux de la psychologie sociale - Gustave-Nicolas Fischer
La psychologie sociale - Gustave-Nicolas Fischer
The social-violence dynamics, power, change - Gustave-Nicolas Fischer Planeta / ISPA, 1980
Gustave-Nicolas Fischer is Professor of Psychology and Director of the Psychology Laboratory at the University of Metz.
French, J. R. P., & Raven, B.H. (1959). The bases of social power. In D. Cartwright (Ed.), Studies in social power. Ann Arbor, MI: Institute of Social Research
Castel, R. The metamorphoses of the social question. Voices, 1998.
Moscovici, S. (1976). Social influence and social change. London: Academic Press
Michel Foucault, Discipline and Punish: The Birth of the Prison

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Aggression in our lives is associated with rage,anger,anger.Such behavior is followed by negative attitudes.Many psychologists believe that this is an innate quality.
Aggression may have a different nature from the infliction of physical force,shouting,oppositional behavior,irritability to external stimuli.
Aggression can manifest itself covertly,positively or on direct directed on Ob ect,use weapons,inflicting in rede itself suicide.

Unfortunately, aggression is dependent on our unconsciousness balance of the death and live pulsions.
Some people that don't control their death instinct, will always project it outside as aggression to family, job, and friends, and "eating" their instint of life like a drug addict.
Normally these people have a high degree of internal frustration but they always blame others for it.


There is nothing to add to your article and I just pick up the point with 'Aggression as an instinct'.

Mostly, Aggression is driven by bad intend, either directed specifically against somebody or rather blindly out of overall discontent with the world. But as you propose with instinct, Aggression doesn't necessarily have to be rooted in bad Intention. Martial Arts' goal is to execute physical violence as a means of last-resort Self-defense yet without any sense of bad Intend within. So we basically execute Aggression yet without harbouring negativity towards the receiver of it.

That is a bit off your specific post but it just popped up in my mind to show an example where Aggression is devoid of inner emotional turmoil!

Thanks a lot for your good point. :)
I don't resist quoting one of my early influencers in life:

I don't even call it violence when it's in self-defense; I call it intelligence. Malcolm X

We can't control aggressive behavior because it is necessary for survival as well as for self-affirmation.

Is that by the definition of ethology, or your definition? Because we can control aggression, override unconscious subconscious responses with conscious will power.

This was one of the first points of view of the ethologists, but this idea nowadays is almost abandoned.
Thanks for clarifying. :)
It is a hard job to control our unconscious scripts of aggressiveness, but the old know-yourself path and get conscious of all our own life story of violence is the best way.

Know thyself, self-knowledge, the big question, who am I. A must have for personal development and betterment ;)