Human Aggression In The Social Context: An Analysis Of The Reasons Why Human Beings Fight

Human aggression has been consistently blamed for the growing incidence of violence all over the world. The link between aggression and violence is clear when we are to consider factors other than biological and psychological factors. This paper aims to establish a clear evidence of the direct influence of social factors in human aggression. Further, this paper aimed at establishing the fact that suppressing violence is possible when social factors are controlled.

For the purpose of initial discussion, this paper preferred to briefly discuss the definition of human aggression using official definitions for the purpose of establishing a common ground. Biological and psychological factors are no more discussed, aside from comparison some part of the paper for the reason that this paper focuses on the role of social factors in human aggression.

Bulk of this paper discusses and investigates the role of social factors and the social responsibility towards human aggression. A conclusion and a number of recommendations are offered by the writer for the readers’ consideration.

The United Nations, an international organization of countries in the world aimed at 1maintaining international peace and security, had in its 2319th Plenary Meeting adopted a board resolution for the official definition of aggression.

UN addressed aggression in a global concept as “the most serious and dangerous form of the illegal use of force, being fraught, in the conditions created by the existence of all types of weapons of mass destruction, with the possible threat of a world conflict and all its catastrophic consequences” (Resolution 3314, Annex).

For the purpose of a broader discussion of the subject, this writer finds it important to present the qualifications of aggression outlined and approved by the UN Board (Article 3):

1.                   The invasion, attack or occupation by the armed forces of a State of the territory of another State by the use of force.

2.                    Bombardment by the armed forces of a State against the territory of another State or the use of any weapons.

3.                   The blockade of the ports or coasts of a State by the armed forces of another State.

4.                   An attack by the armed forces of a State on the land, sea or air forces, or marine and air fleets of another State.

5.                   The use of armed forces of one State which are within the territory of another State in contravention of the conditions provided for in the agreement or any extension of their presence in such territory beyond the termination of the agreement.

6.                   The action of a State in allowing its territory to be used by that other State for perpetrating an act of aggression against a third State.

7.                   The sending by or on behalf of a State of armed bands, groups, irregulars or mercenaries, which carry out acts of armed force against another State.

In consideration of the above qualifications, we can draw out just one general idea of how UN regard aggression and that is any act that will harm other countries or state. Needed to be stressed, the Board Resolution also qualified that such acts are considered as aggression regardless of the declaration of war.

The etymology of the word will also lead us to the same element as with that of the United Nation’s official definition. Merriam-Webster defines aggression as

(1) a forceful action or procedure (as an unprovoked attack) especially when intended to dominate or master,

(2) the practice of making attacks or encroachments; especially unprovoked violation by one country of the territorial integrity of another (3) hostile, injurious, or destructive behavior or outlook especially when caused by frustration. It is a derivation of the Latin word aggressio which means “attack” (Merriam-Webster Online).

Sarah Mc Cawley has adapted a more direct and simple definition: 2“Aggression is an action. It is intended to harm someone.” Mc Cawley stressed that aggression as an action can be in a verbal or physical manner. The main point of the above definitions is the presence and intention of producing harm.

Prominent personalities in related fields of sciences seem to agree on the said definition. But when it comes to the analysis of the caused of aggression, biologists, psychologists and even social psychologists differ in their views and interpretations of study results.

The debate between and the natural (innate) and socio-cultural (learned) causes of aggression had been an international issue for many years. Despite the long list of studies and experiments done on the subject, violence, as a result of aggression still continues to dominate over peace. It is therefore important to find out why while biological factors of aggression have been proven to be valid not all persons resort to violence.

There must be something else that provokes human aggression as suggested by the difference in crime rates or incidents of violence in different areas and regions of the world. There must be something outside the human nature of aggressiveness that induces him to fight. This paper asserts that “social conditions also contribute to the expression of aggression” (J. Taylor & J. Nellist).

Bandura is well-known for his 4Social Learning Theory which he developed using his experiment on kids and bo-bo dolls. This theory holds that humans are not innately aggressive (S. Mc Cawley). Bandura asserts that children to be aggressive in two ways:  by observation and from receiving rewards for the aggressive behavior. Mc Cawley offered a logical example of the observation process.

A child for example is a witness of how his father beats his wife after some sort of heated argument. After showing such aggressive behavior, the father obviously had successfully dominated the situation and because of beating his wife, the argument then stopped.

In the child’s eyes, his father’s aggressive behavior (beating his wife) is a way of resolving the problem (wife arguing with the husband). The reward then for the aggressive behavior is that the argument had been stopped. This is an example of observational learning (J. Liu).

Rewards may also come in different ways: 5getting control of the situation, getting praise/ positive reinforcement for the aggressive behavior or by stopping aggression by others or the negative reinforcement.

For example, the father has to beat his wife in order to stop nagging so the reward for being aggressive is of having the goal of stopping the wife’s nagging. If a child tries to bully another child in force him to lend him a toy, the aggressive behavior is rewarded when the other child gave up his toy because the other tries to hurt him.

Negative reinforcement happens when a child tries to threaten other child that he sees as a potential threat to his toys or food. For example, child A will warn child B not to get his toys otherwise child A will no more let him in their house ever again.

If child B being threatened will not in turn get the toys, child A is being rewarded for his aggressive behavior. Having been either positively rewarded or successful by negative reinforcement, the child gets to repeat the aggressive behavior over and over again.

An individual who had experienced or is currently experiencing some sort of violence are believed to be more aggressive than those who are not exposed to it. This is maintained by the concept of 3victim association as asserted by Nathanson and Cantor. In their experiment, two sets of children were asked to watch a violent movie.

One set were advised to feel the emotions of the victims in the movie they are to watch. The other set watched the movie without any sort of advice. It turned out that those children who were asked to empathize with the victims in the violent movie were less likely to exhibit violent behavior than those who just watched the movie.