Aggression is a very broad and complex term. It has multiple definitions in psychology such as behaviour that results in personal injury or destruction of property (Bandura, 1973), or more simply – the intent to harm (Carlson, Marcus-Newhall and Miller, 1989). There are two main types of aggression in which the difference lies in their goal. Hostile aggression is driven by angry feelings and has the intent to harm or cause pain to another person.
Instrumental aggression has the goal to achieve something or obtain rewards. An example of instrumental aggression would be armed robbery – their goal is to obtain the money, not necessarily to harm other people. Aggression has been considered from many perspectives, one of which being biological in that it is innate behaviour. According to Lorenz (1966), animals (and humans) are biologically programmed to fight over resources and this aggressive “fighting instinct” is a part of natural selection, based on Darwin’s Theory of Evolution. Linking to this, it was found in a piece of research carried out by Buss and Dedden (1990) that men are more likely to show physical aggression than women in which was evident in our evolutionary past.
They analysed intra-sexual aggression between genders and found women were more likely to verbally derogate the appearance of their rivals whereas men were more likely to be physically aggressive against theirs. In agreement with the concept of aggression as an innate instinct, Sigmund Freud believed humans are driven by a powerful death instinct, known as Thanatos. He claimed this is what motivates human behaviour such as aggression due to destructive energy within us that needs to be directed towards others to avoid personal psychological harm. In contrast to this, a different perspective of aggression links it to social learning theory where aggression is learnt from social behaviour. An example of this is through operant conditioning where an individual may receive positive reinforcement for acting aggressively, resulting in the behaviour being repeated.
As well as this, things such as exposure to the media can increase aggression during a persons life. Films, TV, and video games are becoming increasingly violent and characters within them act as role models to viewers, potentially influencing their actions and levels of aggression.