Aggression, concepts and theories

Aggression, concepts and theories


The aggressiveness It is an emotional state that consists of feelings of hate and desire to harm another person, animal or object. Aggression is any form of behavior that seeks to physically or psychologically hurt someone. Aggressiveness is a factor of normal behavior put into action before certain states to respond to vital needs, which protect the survival of the person and the species, without the destruction of the adversary being necessary.

"We have learned to fly like birds and swim like fish, but we have not learned the simple art of living together as brothers."

-Martin Luther King-


  • 1 Characteristics of aggressiveness
  • 2 Objectives of aggression
  • 3 Classifications according to Vanzelli
  • 4 Theories about aggressiveness
  • 5 Ethological theory
  • 6 Sigmund Freud
  • 7 Bandura and learning theory
  • 8 Dollaro and Miller Theoía
  • 9 Expression of anger
  • 10 Factors linked to the expression of aggressiveness
  • 11 Factors that influence the expression of aggressiveness
  • 12 Risk factors for aggressiveness

Characteristics of aggressiveness

  • Self Destructive
  • Consequence of an unresolved emotional problem.
  • Not realistic.
  • It does not solve problems.

Objectives of the aggression

  • Cause harm to the victim.
  • Coercion (influence the behavior of other people).
  • Power and dominance (show the power you have in the family).
  • Reputation and image (the leader is sometimes aggressive within the group).

Classifications according to Vanzelli

  • Depending on the objectives: instrumental and non-instrumental (if you have an objective or not).
  • The degree of control: consciously controlled or impulsive.
  • Of its physical nature: Physical actions or verbal statements.
  • Depending on the displacement: Direct or indirect (it is not added to the cause of the aggression but instead moves against an object).
  • Internal or external function: Self-aggression (suicide) or hetero-aggression.

Theories about aggressiveness

  • Active theories: Psychoanalytic Theory. Ethological theory (internal, motivational and innate).
  • Reactive theories: (reaction to a stimulus of the environment). Dolland's theory and Bandura's theory of learning.

Ethological theory

Study the behavior of animals in their natural environment through observation.

According to this theory, aggressiveness occurs to:

  • Preservation and maintenance of the territory.
  • Hierarchy (The male marks with aggressive gestures who is the boss in the group, also organizes the life of that group of animals, giving priorities)
  • Selection, select the different members of the species. The strongest and the most prepared are those who survive.

Aggression control is different in animals than in man. Males fight but rarely get killed. In almost all species the male who loses is shown to be a loser to his adversary, in what is called the appeasement ritual. For example, in the case of wolves, the losing male tends to sleep and shows the other the neck, leaving his jugular exposed and leaving his life at the mercy of the dominant male.

Ethological theory in humans

But, What about these aggressive behaviors in humans? According to this theory, the following occurs:

  • Men also struggle, in the form of competitiveness, to access basic survival products.
  • The human being is afraid of strangers, and especially members of other races, being aggressive with them (gypsies, blacks etc.)
  • The human being also tends to protect his children.

Niko Tinbergen (ethologist) studied human behavior compared to the animal and said:

Man within the evolutionary scale has exceeded his own genetic scale and we hardly respond to aggressive stimuli. Although there are among us the behaviors of appeasement, both in animals and in humans there is more evidence of aggressiveness in males.

Sigmund Freud

  • Freud believed that aggressiveness was innate in the human being. Above all he developed it in his theory of Eros and the Thanatos.
  • A. Einstein, a contemporary of Freud believed that the human being had within himself an instinct of hatred and destruction.
  • Psychoanalytic theory has given rise to express certain aggressive behavior, it would be good if we could express this aggressiveness in another way and channel it, it is good to let this aggressiveness come out, it is not good to cut it, but to channel it to other objects.

Bandura and learning theory

  • Certain aggressive behaviors are socially rewarded. What we consider aggressive behavior is socially regulated, it is not the same to see a person with a knife in the butcher shop outside the street.
  • In some cultures or religions it is considered an aggression that looks directly into your eyes.
  • If we only rely on learning social aggression, it will indicate that in certain cultures, this sample of aggression is socially justified, but the important thing is to see the intention. This is a criticism of Berkowitz to Bandura and his social learning.

Theoia of Dollard and Miller

  • They tried to integrate behavior and psychoanalysis.
  • Frustrations generate aggressiveness. If something prevents you from having what you want, it can trigger aggression. This aggressiveness can be direct towards the person who generates the frustration either by physical or verbal aggression or indirectly displacing the aggression to a third person or an object.
  • In the US they saw that when the price of cotton increased, aggressions against the black race increased.

Anger expression

GO TO: Emotion with strong feelings of disgust, triggered by real or imaginary evils.

  1. Direct and indirect aggression
  2. Aggression displaced
  3. Non-aggressive responses

Factors that influence the expression of aggression

to. Biological

b. Psychological or environmental

  1. Direct and indirect aggression
    1. Verbal aggression or punishment symbolic directed towards the offender (symbolic: "what I would like to do to you is ...").
    2. Denial or withdrawal of any benefit that the offender enjoys.
    3. Physical punishment or aggression against the offender.
    4. Aggression, damage or injury to something or someone important to the offender.
  2. Aggression displaced
    1. Say something to a third person in order to avenge or punish the offender.
    2. Physical, verbal or other aggression against a person who is not related to the incitement.
    3. Attack an object (not human or animal) not linked to incitement. 
  3. Non-aggressive responses
    1. Discuss the incident with the offender, without exhibiting hostility.
    2. Discuss the issue with neutral third parties, not involved, with no intention of harming the instigator or making it look bad.
    3. Take care of calming activities (walking, gymnastics ...).
    4. Distracting oneself in actions opposed to the expression of anger (behaving much more friendly with the instigator).

Factors linked to the expression of aggressiveness

to. Biological

  • Lobotomy (incision in the frontal lobe) reduces aggressiveness and other functions (eg "Someone flew over the cuckoo's nest")
  • XYY: Men with this chromosome, demonstrated greater number of crimes and less social intelligence to hide the crimes
  • Hormonal factors: related to aggressive states, for example, women during premenstrual syndrome are more irritable and aggressive.

b. Psychological or environmental 

  • There are tribes more aggressive than others.
  • In certain societies and cultures, aggressiveness can be well considered as a way to change certain attitudes, for example in England it is well seen that a teacher hits students so that they learn better.
  • Family rules that encourage the aggressiveness of its members "very good son, so it is done, next time you punch him in the eye". Parents can sometimes be models of aggressive behavior, for example, parents who beat their children. It is necessary to know that, in general terms, aggressiveness is encouraged more in men than in women.
  • TV influence and the media in the acceptance of aggressive behavior: in the movies the good and the winner is always the one with the most cane, the one who hits the best, the strongest, not the one with the greatest capacity for dialogue Although it would be very difficult establish a direct relationship between the number of hours of TV and increased violence.

It is necessary to recognize that we have an innate tendency towards violence, but that it is also influenced by the environment, empowering more.

Factors that influence the expression of aggressiveness

For example: In a traffic accident, we go by car and hit us, the one who hits us is the aggressor and the one who receives the victim.

  1. Interpretation of the victim: how the victim has interpreted the accident, if he thinks it was intended, the aggressiveness towards the aggressor will be greater.
  2. Rear behavior of the aggressor: If the alleged aggressor makes fun of you, or if you are blamed for the accident, your vision of what happened will be different.
  3. The amount of damage done to you: the greater the damage the greater the aggressiveness.
  4. The characteristics of the aggressor: if aggressor is someone against whom you have prejudices (other races, etc.).
  5. The characteristics of this situation (everything that surrounds this fact)
  6. The internal state of the victim, how was the victim at that time.

All these characteristics depend on the victim, the aggressor and the situation.


Studies done to see what features they had the murderer and its victims, it was found that:

  1. Murders usually occur on weekends and at night
  2. They are usually related to the high intake of alcohol and other drugs
  3. The environment has an important role
  4. The killers had previously committed other crimes against people.
  5. The murderer and the victims have similar personality characteristics, that is, they are aggressive people.
  6. It usually occurs more in young men
  7. The victim could even have provoked or precipitated the aggression (eg, 17-year-old boy who killed his father, the press says that the father was very violent and mistreated the mother and children).
  8. The reasons for the murder are usually: domestic discussions, jealousy and economic problems.
  9. The murderer and the victim knew each other previously (in 87% of cases), cold-blooded murders are rare.
  10. Cold-blooded murders are usually carried out to achieve a specific purpose, for example a terrorist gang, robberies, kidnappings, etc.
  11. Homicides to known fruit of family fights are considered more emotional or reactive homicides (85%)

Risk factors for aggressiveness

  • Potentially aggressive and emotionally reactive personalities with little tolerance.
  • Stressful social conditions (slums, outcasts, uprooting, oppression, ethnic minorities, etc ...).
  • Weak social controls: in the absence of a relationship with neighbors or society, who do not know you, it implies a greater expression of aggressiveness (it is very difficult to control everyone, many people and few police etc.).
  • Specific subcultures (skins heads, etc.).
  • Wars: in some studies it has been seen that the number of homicides increases after the wars.
  • Total availability of firearms (USA).

In 1992 a study was carried out in Yugoslavia, applying the MMPI test and with the hypothesis are homicides psychotic? About half of the sample showed a aggressive personality pattern, with intolerance to frustration and violent impulses. Sixteen of them presented criteria of psychotic personality or antisocial personality.

  1. Absence of hallucination
  2. Specific loss of intuition
  3. Inability for any life plan
  4. Irresponsibility. Lies, insincerity
  5. Great poverty of basic affective reactions
  6. Pathological egocentrism and inability to love
  7. External charm and remarkable intelligence
  8. Absence of nervousness or neurotic manifestations. Untrustworthy.
  9. Alcohol and drug abuse.

The other sixteen people did not present any apparently problematic personality. However, they showed traits of lacking correct assertiveness to communicate problems to others.

Related tests
  • Depression test
  • Goldberg depression test
  • Self-knowledge test
  • how do others see you?
  • Sensitivity test (PAS)
  • Character test