Theoretical Perspectives on Aggression

Forming a sustainable relationship with an aggressive person is probably the most challenging thing for even the most caring persons. Aggression refers to any form of violent acts that are intended to harm others. This character makes some people combative and difficult to live with; hence, it is essential to understand the causes of their hostility and possible remedies. This paper will analyze the two main theories of aggression: the social learning theory and frustration-aggression hypothesis, with the aim of understanding the reasons for combative behaviors.
Social Learning Theory
The social learning theory posits that people acquire aggressive characters due to psychological factors and environmental stimuli. Albert Bandura formed this theory in 1977. The researcher notes that an individual’s behaviors are influenced by what he/she observes, retains, reproduces, and his/her motivation (Ciccarelli & White, 2016). Consequently, aggressiveness is learned, and a person’s observation of others influences his/her behaviors.
Frustration-Aggression Hypothesis
The frustration-aggression hypothesis alludes that a blockage of ongoing goals arouses an individual’s drive to cause harm. In 1939, Dollard, Miller, and Sears created this theory (Myers & DeWall, 2015). Usually, a person’s disappointments make him/her aggressive. Noteworthy, an individual is likely to be frustrated if he/she feels that someone caused his/her failures (Myers & DeWall, 2015). Consequently, the aggrieved party typically believes that his/her combative behavior is a valid response.
Differences Between Social Learning Theory and Frustration-Aggression Hypothesis
Since the social learning theory and frustration-aggression hypothesis originated from two different concepts, the two have many significant differences. In particular, the former opines that aggressive behaviors are caused by an adverse environment, while in the latter, this character is due to blockage of a person’s goals (Schacter, Gilbert, Wegner, & Nock, 2014). Additionally, in social learning theory, a person must first learn combative behaviors before he/she becomes hostile. However, in the frustration-aggression hypothesis, one does not establish aggressive conducts since his/her actions are mostly a form of revenge.
Similarities Between Social Learning Theory and Frustration-Aggression Hypothesis
In both the social learning theory and frustration-aggressive hypothesis, an individual’s external environment leads to the formation of combative behaviors (Ciccarelli & White, 2016). In the former, a person develops hostility after observing the actions of other individuals. In the latter, a person’s knowledge of the perpetrators of his/her failures makes him/her angry, which, in turn, makes him/her develop aggressive behaviors.
Empirical Work on the Differences and Similarities
The 1961 Bobo doll experiment and the Dill and Anderson 1995 test of folding origami show the differences between the social learning theory and frustration-aggression hypothesis respectively (Pick, Leibowitz, Singer, Steinschneider, &Stevenson, 2012; Dill & Anderson, 1995). In the former, the researchers concluded that children who witness an adult utilizing violence are likely to believe that this type of behavior is normal. In the latter experiment, Dill & Anderson (1995) noted that frustrated individuals usually gave poor scores to the test supervisor, whereas those who were satisfied with the test rated him highly. Noteworthy, the poor ratings provided by individuals who failed to attain their goals was, in fact, an aggressive behavior towards their supervisors.
From the Bobo doll and the origami experiments, it is clear that in both social learning and frustrated-aggression theory, individuals’ external environment influence their characters. In the former, the adult’s conduct of kicking the doll makes the children believe that hostility is acceptable conduct. In the latter, the experimenters’ inability to fold the origami frustrates them, which, leads to the formation of their aggressive behavior. The main difference shown in the tests was that in social learning theory the children developed the combative behaviors after witnessing an adult, while in frustration-aggression hypothesis the experimenters formed the hostile conducts on their own.
On the overall, both theories show that a person’s environment influences his/her behavior. In particular, exposure to hostility makes an individual learn aggressive behaviors. Similarly, situations that frustrate one’s efforts to attain his/her goals make him/her confrontational. Consequently, it is essential to expose someone to a friendly and caring environment so that he/she can be cooperative.
Ciccarelli, S., & White, N. (2016). Psychology (5th ed.). London, UK: Pearson.
Dill, J., & Anderson, C. (1995). Effects of frustration justification on hostile aggression. Aggressive Behavior, 21(5), 359-369.
Myers, D., & DeWall, N. (2015). Psychology (11th ed.). New York, NY: Worth Publishers.
Pick, H., Leibowitz, H., Singer, J., Steinschneider, A., & Stevenson, H. (2012). Psychology: From research to practice. New York, NY: Plenum Press.
Schacter, D., Gilbert, D., Wegner, D., & Nock, M. (2014). Psychology (3rd ed.). New York, NY: Worth Publishers.