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Causes of Aggressive Behavior

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Running head: CAUSES OF AGGRESSIVE BEHAVIOR Causes of Aggressive Behavior Michelle Anne Varnum Saint Martin's University Table of Contents Abstract 3 Introduction 4 Course Relevance 4 Definitions 4 Literature Review 5 Topic Discussion 10 Relevance to Personal Interest 10 Summary 10 References 12 Abstract The causes of aggressive behavior will be explored, ranging from biological and intentional to a response to something learned. From children to adults, we will see that aggressive behavior is classified as not only a hostile action, but also, a learned behavior that can be instrumental. This paper will explore several causal factors of aggression, such as instinctive and biological/psychological, observational and social learning, and alcohol-induced. Causes of Aggressive Behavior Introduction Philosophers, psychologists, and scientists have spent centuries studying the causal factors of aggressive behavior. But not all agree on the exact factors that force human beings to act in an aggressive manner. In 1651, Thomas Hobbes published in Leviathan that aggression is a natural instinct, whereas, in 1762, Jean-Jacques Rousseau developed the noble savage theory, stating that it is because of a restrictive society that we are driven to be aggressive in nature (Aronson, 2004). Depending on how one defines aggression and the causal factors, both philosophers could be right. ...read more.


When the male monkey's amygdala was stimulated, he became aggressive towards the less dominant monkeys. But when his amygdala was stimulated in the presence of more dominant monkeys, he ran away, because he had learned prior to the experiment to fear the other monkeys (Aronson, 2004). The hypothalamus also plays a role in aggressive behavior. This area actually serves as a regulator in terms of aggression (Wikipedia.org, 2007). When the hypothalamus is electrically stimulated, like the amygdala, aggressive behavior ensues, however, it "has receptors that help determine aggression levels based on their interactions with the neurotransmitters serotonin and vasopressin" (Wikipedia.org, 2007). The male hormone testosterone also has an affect on aggression in humans and animals (Aronson, 2004). James Dabbs and his colleagues discovered higher testosterone levels in those convicted of violent crimes then those convicted of nonviolent crimes, and in another independent study, animals that were injected with testosterone became more aggressive than those who were not injected with the male sex hormone (Aronson, 2004). The neurotransmitter serotonin is another chemical with implications for aggression. Serotonin was shown to have a negative correlation with aggression, which helps to explain the aggression-reducing and calming effects of serotonin reuptake inhibitors such as Prozac (Wikipedia.org, 2007). ...read more.


Biology plays probably the largest part of all in aggressive tendencies, as shown in the prisoners who were incarcerated for violent crimes such as murder who had more testosterone than those who were in prison for non-violent crimes. And it makes you wonder, where would our society be without the discovery of medications that actually help reduce aggressive behavior? Relevance to Personal Interest This topic was chosen because I wanted to know the why's and how's of aggressive behavior. There had to be more than just the infamous studies of the effects of violent media on human beings, and indeed, I found that it can actually be learned, through what we call observational learning. We must be careful as adults and as parents and guard our children from violence and negative behavior, not only from the media but as well as in the household. Summary As we have seen, aggressive behavior stems from not only biological factors, but also from learning from our surrounding environment as well as what is shown in the media. While their may be two defined forms of aggression, both hostile and instrumental, we must continue to carefully study the two closely and know how to differentiate the characteristics of each. By understanding where aggression stems from, medical experts and doctors can better treat their patients and contribute to a healthier, safer, society. ...read more.

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