The Aggression Systems
Human Aggression - Introduction Page 4

Table of Contents


Preface Pages 1 - 2


Human aggression - introduction Pages 3 - 4 - 5 - 6 - 7 - 8


Evolution of aggression - introduction Pages  9 - 10 - 11 - 12 - 13 - 14


Brain mechanisms of aggression - introduction Pages 15 - 16 - 17 - 18 - 19 - 20


Dynamics of aggression - introduction Pages 21 - 22 - 23


The positive value of anger applies not only to those who struggle for social change, but also for individuals who strive to correct their relationships with others in their personal lives. Documentation for this fact may be found in Averill (1983) in his Table 4: "Target's perception of longer-term changes or consequences brought about by the angry episode." Those who were the recipients of angry episodes (i.e. the "targets") said that in 76% of the cases they came to realize their own faults as a result of the episode. The target's relationship to the angry person was strengthened more often than it was weakened (48% to 35%) and their respect for the angry person was strengthened more often than weakened (44% to 29%). In other words, anger in the interpersonal relations of everyday life is more often constructive than it is destructive.

Not all anger is in response to social injustice, and not all anger achieves positive results. Averill (1983) estimates that most anger is in response to social injustice. He bases this on the finding that "over 85% of episodes described by the angry persons involved either an act that they considered voluntary and unjustified (59%) or else a potentially avoidable accident (e.g., due to negligence or lack of foresight, 28%)." While a majority of anger episodes are seen by the target to have been positive in outcome, a sizable minority are perceived as having been negative.

Certain types of human aggression are probably homologous to the types of aggression that we see in other mammals, and which are described and analyzed in the rest of this book. Averill notes that some episodes of anger are caused simply by frustration if the frustration is particularly severe and/or arbitrary; this probably corresponds to the competitive fighting that we have investigated in laboratory animals. Also some episodes of anger are instigated by possible or actual physical injury or pain; this probably corresponds to the defensive aggression that is well known in laboratory and wild mammals. See the paper on pain-induced fighting in the section on brain mechanisms of aggression. Even such a type of aggression as predatory aggression may occur in rare occasions in humans. For example, it was said that the wild boy of Aveyron killed its prey with a bite to the back of the neck which may be homologous to the predatory aggression of cats, rats, etc. It must be emphasized, however, that these types of aggression are not the most commonly observed, and in some cases, may be very rare indeed.

(Continued on next page)

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