When you can’t figure out a math problem, are stuck in a traffic jam, or are trying to get the kid behind you to stop kicking your seat on the bus, you are probably experiencing aggression. There may be circumstances that trigger it, such as the ones above, but where does it actually come from?
There are many possible answers to this question, but on simple terms it can be condensed into nature or nurture. Nature means you’re born with it and that it just happened naturally, whether it is your genes or your brain. Nurture means you’re not born with it, you were raised to be the way you are by your family, friends and surrounding environment.
Starting with the ‘nature’ argument, aggression could originate from a hormone called testosterone. It is secreted by the adrenal glands and is believed to be responsible for aggression because:
- Across almost every culture, males tend to be more aggressive than females. This could be because males produce 10 times more testosterone than females do.
- Psychologists have researched the role of testosterone by doing animal tests and removing the testosterone (by castrating it) and then injecting it into back into male animals. The results were that when removed, the animal became less aggressive, and when restored, the animal returned to its level of aggression before the castration.
- Psychologists also used correlation studies by taking blood from humans, measuring how much testosterone was in it, and compared that to how aggressive their behaviour is through questionnaires. It showed that there is a relationship between people with high testosterone levels, and a high level of aggression.
On the other hand, aggression could originate from the way our environment and the people around us affect us. This is called the nature argument. In terms of how people affect us, some believe that our aggression comes from observation learning which supports a theory called the Social Learning Theory.
Observational learning is demonstrated by, for example, a child imitating a parent’s behaviour. If the parent reads a lot of books the child may learn this by observing them, and then opening a book and flipping its pages.
This is proven through Albert Bandura’s study it 1961, where a group of children watched an adult hitting an inflatable bobo doll. When the children were then put in that room they were seen imitating the adult’s behaviour and even constructing and adding to what they have learnt when provided with extra equipment in the room. For example, one boy was seen even threatening the bobo doll with a toy gun, something which the adult had never done.
Given these two theories, there are lots of other speculations that make up this ‘nature vs. nurture’ argument about the origins of aggression. Even though psychologists are still not fully clear on exactly where anger comes from, and why some have it more extreme or often than others, any break through on this topic will surely change our opinion on how children should be raised, or how aggressive people should be treated. Society’s opinion is vital to these questions, so it’s left up to you. Do you think aggression is born or made?