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This essay has a total of 4615 words and 16 pages.


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Aggression is a critical part of animal existence, which is an inherent driving force to
humans, as we, too, are animals. The source of aggression within humans is a long
summative list, but before trying to understand its source one must apply a working
definition of aggression. Encyclopedia Britannica as any action of an animal that serves
to injure an opponent or prey animal or to cause an opponent to retreat defines aggressive
behavior. (7) David G. Myers states that aggression is any physical or verbal behavior
intended to hurt or destroy. (9) There are many types of aggressive behaviors, which can
be differentiated from the factual act to the hidden motives. For example, an aggressive
behavior can be negative or positive, accidental or intended, and physical or mental.
Aggression can take numerous forms, the act of hitting a wall to release aggression has
some of the same roots as playing football and enjoying hitting the quarterback. A child
yelling at his parents could be equated, in its aggressiveness, with hitting one’s
horn when one is cut off on 495. Aggression is also a relative construct. What might seem
like a terribly aggressive act to one person, most often the victim, might seem like an
induced response to the perpetrator. (3) Psychologist Arlene Stillwell performed an
experiment where she assigned ordinary college students at random to play the role of a
victim or a perpetrator in a small incident. Then she asked the students to describe the
situation that had just transpired. What she found was that both victims and perpetrators
deformed the truth equally to present their sides in a better light. Victims would dwell
on their lasting traumas from the incident while the perpetrator might make the act seem
like a one-time action provoked by insurmountable circumstances. The resulting implication
is that aggression is in the eye of the beholder. (3) Due to its relative nature
aggression is extremely hard to isolate and study. Some acts are very easy to categorize
as aggressive, a first degree murder or first degree rape, but is negligent manslaughter
aggressive? The mere act of not shoveling one’s sidewalk might have the same effect
as a cold-blooded murder but is it an aggressive act? For the purposes of this paper
aggression will be related to the four conditions presented by Gerda Siann. They are as
follows; 1. The person carrying out that behavior, the aggressor, does so with intention.
2. The behavior is taking place within an interpersonal situation, which is characterized
by an accumulated distress or an opposition. 3. The aggressor intends by the behavior in
question to gain a greater advantage than the person does on the other side of the
aggression. 4. The aggressor carrying out the behavior has either provoked the situation
or moved the conflict unto a higher degree of strength. (11) Aggression has numerous
reasons and consequences both must be analyzed in order to see from whence it arises. An
explicit example of the strength of both nature and nurture concerning aggression is the
life of Kody Scott, a young gang member of California. He was already a gang member in
middle school. If the gang had not already been in place when he graduated from
elementary school – thus environment’s role in aggressive behavior, but one
fateful day when he stole a car to get to the hospital for the birth of his first child,
he intentionally detoured through the neighborhood of a rival gang and killed a rival gang
member. The detour he deliberately took was a conscious decision and not provoked by the
environment – hence nature’s toll on his aggressive act. (3) Aggression is
usually associated with negative aspects of the world. (3) This is not necessarily true,
though. Negativity is but half of the nature of aggression. Aggression can have very
positive results. For example, a non-aggressive hockey player gets thrown around and will
therefore not perform very well in a bellicose sport. On the other hand an aggressive
player will not allow himself to be thrown around like the aforementioned player and will
most likely win the small battles just based on the mentality of the player. (5) Another
example of positive aspects of aggression might be a person’s sexual aggressiveness
might allow them to obtain a date to prom without any problem, whereas anyone much less
aggressive person would be passive and wait for the person to approach them. One good
aspects of aggressiveness might be ambitiousness or assertiveness, an aggressive person is
more likely to get what they need done as opposed to the inactive person. Outgoing, a
socially positive trait is nothing more than aggressiveness personified. A female high
school senior might be more successful and be rewarded (by being voted for Best
Personality in the MOCK awards) for being socially aggressive – outgoing. Aggression
can also be characterized by mentality. Where one hurts someone out of rage or whether one
thinks of numerous ways of hurting someone, aggression still is present in both
situations. The thoughts of a people, for example the Germans in World War Two can be just
as aggressive as the act as the systematic murder of the Jewish community. (8) Aggression
in this case was an extreme example of a spiraling staircase. The Nazi party did not begin
a process of systematic murder at the beginning of their rule, first they instituted a
hate as scapegoats toward the Jews, they then removed some luxuries that the Jews had,
then they removed citizenship, followed by imprisonment, then to slave labor, and lastly
the "Final Solution" was implemented. The thoughts of hatred at the beginning of the
platform were just as dangerous and aggressive as the gas chambers of late WWII. These
aggressive feelings allowed the Germans to desensitize each other to a point of genocide.
(11) By solely disliking someone they looked the other way when the book burning began,
then it was just a small step to the first pogrom, then they just accepted the
de-humanization of Jews, and this was followed by an escalating progress which led
eventually to the inhumane murder of close to six million human lives. Along with these
pure feelings of anger and hatred –aggression—the Germans also tried to
scapegoat and thereby provide catharsis for themselves by blaming the downfall of their
troubles on the Jewish community. This displacement somehow released pent up rage that had
been present for numerous years of misery for the Germans. (3, Handler) Thus thoughts also
cause aggression or are manifestations of the pure aggression. The most obvious example of
aggression is killing, for that reasons the example for this paper will be the untimely
death of people as caused by others. From very young ages death permeates into all of our
lives. From having a loved grandparents passing away to the learning how to read the
newspaper and reading about terrible deaths daily, if not more often. One strong argument
supports that people have built-in aggression. Much like the theories of Freud, that
people have instinctual aggression, whether sexual or violent, a multitude of scientists
and psychologists believe that biology is crucial in the development of aggression. (9)
For example aggression has been correlated numerous times in a significant way with
testosterone. (1) One psychologist, Jack Hokanson, has tracked catharsis theories for a
number of years. One experiment performed by this man seemed to point that in order to
reduce violence or aggression men would react angrily, whereas women would react in a
friendly manner when presented with aggressive behaviors. (2) The variable that was tested
here were the differences in the genders which proved to be quite polar, for the men were
belligerent and the women were almost uniformly kind. (12) Differences in physical
strength also have provided for differences in aggression levels between the two sexes.
Since men are physically built stronger than women they are more likely to are become
aggressive than are women who are not, in general, as physically strong. Neurotransmitters
seem to play a very important part in the aggressive nature of mammals. As tested in
monkeys, who have matching 99 percent of their genes with humans, it has been found that
hyper-aggressive or antisocial monkeys have a deficit of the neurotransmitter serotonin.
As an interesting side note the leaders, who have a different type of aggression
–assertion—have higher levels of this same chemical. (1) In this same study
the monkeys seemed to have very predictable heredity patterns, In which the monkeys were
found to easily exhibit the same behavior as the father. This was also found to be true
"in men who have been discharged from the Marines for excessive violence, as well as in
criminals in Finland who committed acts of wanton violence."(8) Seratonin has also found
to be an inhibiting factor concerning aggression. A situation or condition that reduces
seratonin levels is among drugs, hypoglycemia. Hypoglycemia is a condition of lowered
blood sugar, certain diets can cause or inhibit the onset of this condition, thus directly
affecting genetically the aggressive behavior of a person.(12) On the topic of diets an
correlation has been found with the corn (a food that decreases the levels of seratonin in
the brain) intake of a country and the homicide rates, an obviously aggressive marker.(10)
Another chemical in the human machine that causes or has been related to has been the
"anger hormone" –adrenaline and its counterpart noradrenaline. This is inherent in
the flight or fight reflex, in which fighting is usually prepared by a flush of adrenaline
into the system, and anger/aggression are integral parts of it.(12) Stanley Hall found
that anger has numerous different effects on the human body, depending on the person.
Aggression can cause either an increase or a decrease in heart rate depending on the anger
causing stimulus.(12) For example, a psychologist named Albert F. Ax found that his test
subjects were experiencing the slowing of their hearts because they were concentrating too
hard on the event supposed to turn them aggressive, in the case of his experiment a
mugger.(12) Another study done by a man named Eron in 1987, showed that most children, who
when described by their peers as having high levels of aggression, are three times as
likely to have a criminal conviction by the age of 30 than those children who were rated
as having high levels of pro-social behavior.(10) That study shows the apparent stability,
or lack of change, in the behavior of people thereby fueling the genetic, or nature, side
of the nature versus nurture war that is currently being fought. Epilepsy has also been
affiliated with aggressive behavior or at least with outbursts of it. A very strong
correlation has been made between the focus of epileptic discharges being in the temporal
lobe of the brain and discharges of violent and aggressive behavior. (1) That condition
can be helped by psychosurgery but is not used as common as possible because the
biological age group who most is affected by this circumstance are juveniles or violent
offenders who are not capable of giving unbiased, informed consent to irreversible
procedures. Furthermore, evidence liking antisocial conduct—aggression—with
abnormal electrical activity in the temporal lobes. Using a electroencephalogram (EEG) to
study these waves of electricity in the temporal lobe of sufferers of a sociopath complex,
psychologists have surmised that the aggressive personality disorders are related to a
delay of maturation in these areas of the brain, this could be cause by a innumerable
amount of factors like fetal infection, brain trauma, or lack of proper nutrients in
diet.(1) In 1969 a psychologist by the name of Williams used an EEG on 333 men convicted
of crimes and found that out of the 206 men who had a history of crimes has a disruption,
or dysrhythmias, in the temporal lobes. Following the genetic track of aggression is the
undeniable fact that aggressive behavior also declines sharply with age.(10) Another
physiological factor that might affect the aggressiveness and even violence level of a
person is that of cerebral trauma, especially diseases. These people who exhibit an
"impairment of the control systems of the brain" also have been known to occasionally
suffer from persistent brain immaturity, brain damage, or toxic impairment of the brain.
There has also been presented the single-gene notion about psychopath or sociopath
behavior. Researchers have found that significant number of prisoners have an extra sex
chromosomes, for example an "XXY" or "XYY".(12) Their being in jail does not seem to be
the root of their problem but rather it seems to stem from "their low level of
intelligence," which is inherently a genetically influence aspect, according to Robert A.
Baron.(10) In post-war studies, studies of the most aggressive of all activities, there
have been similarities found with soldier. For example several senior U.S. Air Force
officers have stated that when the Air Force tried to pre-select fighter pilots after
world war two the only common denominator between their WWII aces was that they had all
been involved in numerous altercations as children. Not as bullies but rather as fighters,
the type of person who would not back down once attacked or hurt. This seemed like a
strange connection between the type of job and a similarity in childhood activities,
because significantly less than a third of school populations engage in fights on a
regular basis. This seems to point at a genetic capacity for violence and aggression. More
informally, Gwynne Dyer has felt, through his experiences as a soldier, his genes at work
as he says; Aggression is certainly part of our genetic makeup, and necessarily so, but
the normal human being’s quota of aggression will not cause him to kill
acquaintances, let alone wage war against strangers from a different country….The
overwhelming majority of those who have killed…have done so as soldiers in war, and
we recognize that that has practically nothing to do with the kind of personal aggression
that would endanger us as their fellow citizens. (8) Here a regular serving soldier spoke
with experience of seeing the numerous soldiers that "[derived] their greatest
satisfaction from male companionship, from excitement, and from the conquering of physical
obstacles." Those men were most likely part of the 2 percent of combat soldiers (as noted
by Swank and Marchand’s WWII study) are predisposed to be "aggressive
psychopaths."(8) Men can be compared to animals concerning this apparent predisposition to
aggression. For example, in most species it is the best hunter, the best fighter, the most
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