Aggression in Humans

Aggression is defined as an unprovoked offensive, attack, invasion, or the like on another person or party.

Does aggression come naturally to human beings or is a product of their environment? All we seem to see on the news today and actually for years are stories on muggings, assaults, murders, and war. What is the cause of this? Is it something that we can control or is it something that is born into us? If we know the causes of aggression can we prevent much of what we are seeing in the world today?

These are not simple questions and there are definitely no simple answers, but there have been numerous studies done on aggression in humans to try and determine what is causing this negative aspect of human nature.

Those who believe aggression is biological in cause often related to chemical or hormonal imbalances in the body. Generally testosterone is associated with aggression in all species and in turn the males of species are known as the aggressive sex of the species. Males who have a high level of testosterone are often seen as more aggressive. Reduction of this testosterone, even by means of castration, has lead to a decrease in aggression. In addition to testosterone, serotonin has also been linked to aggression. However, unlike testosterone, lower levels of serotonin has been linked to aggression. Humans who were augmented with artificial serotonin often saw decreases in aggression.

These are natural chemicals produced by the body that can lead to aggression, what about non-natural chemicals? Alcohol and narcotics have also been linked to aggression. These chemicals lead to a decrease in self-awareness and inhibitions and a decrease in knowing what the ultimate outcome of an event will be.

Increasing or decreasing these hormones/chemicals can help decrease aggression, but where does the aggression come from? Continuing on the nature side of the argument, many believe that aggression is also inherited. This means that aggression is passed from generation to generation in their DNA and there is nothing they can do about it.

This creates an major argument for those who believe that aggression is a product of a persons environment. Instead of aggression being passed down in a person’s DNA, it is passed down based on what a person has seen and learned. If the father was aggressive, then the son learned to be aggressive by seeing and following.

The social environment can also lead to aggression. If a person is stuck in a negative situation where all they see is negativity and they feel threatened they are more likely to respond in an aggressive manner. They were not born this way, but became aggressive out of reaction to the situation they were place in. This can be seen anywhere from dangerous city neighborhoods to war torn countries in different parts of the world.

There are other external factors that can contribute to aggression and these include:
– Pain
– Heat
– Overcrowding
– Objects at their disposal – ex) Toy gun vs toy car for a child

There does not seem to be a clear cause of aggression, but instead a combination of factors. Each side can argue that their cause is more likely, but they cannot rule out other factors that can help contribute to human aggression.