- For present purposes, it is convenient to consider the behavior of individuals as caused in part by internal propensities, while acknowledging both that such propensities are not to be seen as unitary entities and that they may be influenced by external factors. Certain behavioral propensities, including the capacity for aggression, are common to virtually all humans. This does not mean that they are genetically determined. "Human nature" is a consequence of common genetic factors and of ubiquitous factors in the environment. The combination of genetic endowment and environmental factors almost inevitably encountered in development lead to the presence of a capacity for aggression in virtually every individual. But that does not mean that aggressive behavior stems from an innate "drive" that must be discharged in some way; there is neither psychological (Berkowitz, 1963) nor cross-cultural evidence for such a view. Humans have the capacity to be both aggressive and altruistic, cooperative and cantankerous; the behavior shown depends on a host of developmental, experiential, social, and circumstantial factors.
Within that framework, aggressive acts are seldom due solely to aggressive motivation; other motivations are usually present. For instance, the behavior may involve an attempt to acquire an object or situation, which for present purposes we may call acquisitiveness. There may also be a tendency to show off assertiveness. Furthermore, aggression usually involves risk of injury for the attacker, so that it is combined with self-protective or withdrawal responses. Thus, whether or not aggression actually occurs will depend not only on the individual's aggressiveness, but also on motivations of other types.
Individual aggression is often categorised into a number of types. For instance, one system distinguishes "instrumental aggression," deliberate and concerned primarily with obtaining an object or position or access to a desirable activity; "emotional aggression," hot-headed and angry; "felonious aggression," occurring in the course of a crime: and "dyssocial aggression," regarded as appropriate by the reference group or gang, but not so regarded by outsiders (e.g., Blurton Jones, 1972; Tinklenberg & Ochberg, 1981). Such categories, though useful for some purposes, usually turn out to be less clear-cut than they might appear for an obvious reason: a variety of motivations may contribute to a single act, and they may be present in various strengths and combinations. The very fact that such categorization systems can be only partially satisfactory is in itself an indication of the motivational complexity of even apparently simple aggressive acts.
It is convenient to divide the factors contributing to an aggressive act into three categories, with dialectical relations between the levels of social complexity operating in each case. These three categories follow:
- Ontogenetic factors. The tendency of an individual to behave aggressively depends in part on genetic factors and in part on experience. Physical aggressiveness tends to be greater in boys than in girls, to increase with age up to adolescence or early adulthood, and then to decline. In our own culture, attention has focused on the roles of classical conditioning, operant conditioning, and observational learning, and on relationships within the family. These affect both motivational propensities and the acquisition of cognitive capacities, the latter including abilities for conflict resolution. Relationships with individuals outside the family may also be important, including especially those who serve as role models and the peer group with its norms. The behavior of the socialising agent, whether intra- or extra-familial, will be influenced by the norms and values of the group and the society to which the agent belongs, and these norms and values may differ with the nature of the targeted individual. Thus parents may apply different norms for boys and girls, or for firstborns and later looms. Furthermore, the norms and values operating will be influenced by, and will influence, the mass media and other channels of social influence. Thus, the aggressive propensities of individuals can be understood only through the dialectical relations between individuals, their relationships and group membership, and the socio-cultural structure or structures operating.
- Predisposing factors. Across societies, violence is more frequent in those that tolerate or extol violent acts by individual or state, do not distribute income or wealth equitably, and lack social and political institutions linking their members in networks of communal obligation (Gartner, 1996, in press). However, the issues here are complex. While political violence may provide a context for increase in criminal violence (e.g. Liddell, Kemp & Moema, 1993; Straker et al., 1996), homicide rates tend to decrease in countries actually at war, probably because of the increased integration (Lester, 1992). After the war, however, homicide rates tend to increase. In addition, the propensity of an individual at any particular time may be influenced also by a variety of contextual factors, including the current social situation and its attendant norms, and the presence and density of other individuals.
- Eliciting factors. Whether an aggressive act is actually elicited depends on further factors, including the individual's current motivational state; frustration of current goals; pain, fear, and other aversive factors; and arousal, the nature of the opponent or victim, and the availability of weapons. It depends also on a variety of inhibitory factors, such as fear of punishment and the possibility of alternative courses of action (Goldstein, 1986).
The preceding paragraphs do no more than hint at the complexity of the factors involved in individual aggression, but they may serve to indicate that full understanding even of interactions between individuals requires analysis of individual characteristics and their bases, a variety of situational factors, and coming to terms with the dialectical relations between the levels of complexity and the socio-cultural structure.
AGGRESSION BETWEEN GROUPS
- Aggression between groups requires cooperation between the individuals within each group. But beyond that, it involves principles additional to those pertaining to individual aggression, principles that arise from the very nature of groups and from the relations between the group and its individual members. The literature on the nature of psychological groups and inter-group relations is now vast (see e.g. Brewer & Brown, in press), but some issues important in the present context must be reviewed briefly.
Individuals see themselves both as autonomous individuals and as members of groups. In addition to seeing himself as John Smith, born in such-and-such a place, cleverer than most, and not so good with his hands, an individual may see himself as a member of a variety of groups the middle classes, Jewish, a citizen of this or that country. Thus Tajfel and Turner (1986) distinguished between an individual's personal identity (involving comparisons with other individuals) and social identity (derived from membership in emotionally significant social groups or categories). The greater the salience of the latter, the less that of the former; perception of the self as an interchangeable unit in a social group involves diminution in perception of the self as special or unique. It has been suggested that this partial depersonalisation is basic to many group phenomena (Turner et al., 1987; Turner et al., 1994); such a view is certainly in harmony with the methods used to instill discipline and group loyalty into military recruits.
Members of a psychological group not only label themselves (and usually are defined by others) as a group, but see themselves as more similar in group-relevant and distinctive respects to each other than to outsiders. And they see themselves as in some degree interdependent, and often as having a common task or goal. There is some disagreement as to which, if any, of these is primary or fundamental (see e.g. Rabbie, 1989; Sherif, 1966; Tajfel & Turner, 1986; Turner, 1981).
Membership in a psychological group has certain consequences on individual behavior. Members of the in-group tend to be treated as heterogeneous differentiated individuals, members of the out-group as undifferentiated units. Individuals who see themselves as members of a group tend to elaborate, and to subscribe to, group norms and values and to conform to them (Tajfel & Turner. 1986).
A frequently important aspect of group membership stems from the fact that individuals need to find support for their beliefs (Festinger, 1954), and this may be obtained from those who share those beliefs. Finding that others share one's beliefs may increase one's liking for and feeling of solidarity with them, especially if the convictions, such as religious beliefs, are otherwise unverifiable (Byrne, Nelson & Reeves, 1966); and reciprocally common group membership authenticates the potential of other group members to provide consensual validation (Gorenflo & Crano, 1989).
The self-esteem of group members is influenced by group membership. Individuals seek a positive social identity, but membership of a group will contribute to that only if it can be evaluated favorably relative to other groups. People therefore tend to identify with groups that they evaluate favorably, and to evaluate favorably groups with which they identify, even in the absence of objective evidence for their qualities. The more individuals identify with a group, the more they are likely to strive to enhance their own self-image by contributing to the group. Group cohesiveness and in-group cooperation are thus facilitated, and are likely to be greater in groups that are seen as successful. In-group membership provides a sense of security for individuals, and outsiders may be stereotyped and denigrated. Individuals receive "reflected glory" from the achievements of their fellow group members, even though not contributing themselves (Cialdini et al., 1976; Tesser, 1988).
Again, negative acts by the out-group are more likely to be ascribed to characteristics of that group than similar acts by in-group members, while achievements and positive acts by the in-group are more likely to be ascribed to shared in-group characteristics than to external circumstances (Hewstone, 1990). Reciprocally, negative evaluations of the out-group may enhance the self-esteem of in-group members and their tendency to identify with their own (highly esteemed) group (Tajfel & Turner, 1986; see discussion by Brewer & Brown, in press).
Because individuals want both to see themselves as individuals and as related to another or others (Baxter,1990), groups that are exclusive tend to be especially cohesive. A distinctive social identity can satisfy both the need to feel part of a group and the need to feel special and different from others (Brewer, 1991).
There are, it must be noted, exceptions to these generalisations. For instance, in-group preference may be diluted or reversed in lower status groups. Minority groups may perceive themselves to be homogeneous, and yet evaluate the out-group more favorably than the in-group (Sachdev & Bourhis, 1991). But in general, individuals tend to show loyalty and preference to the in-group, to exaggerate differences from out-groups, and to evaluate the in-group favorably. Recent evidence suggests that such characteristics of inter-group behavior are most pronounced when (a) intra-group cooperation, collective achievement, and interdependence with fellow group members are emphasized; and (b) the existence or importance of the group depends on the existence of other groups (Brown et al., 1992).
It will be apparent that many aspects of inter-group relations are of special importance in times of conflict or war. This evidence from social psychology is not undermined by the tenuous evidence from anthropology. While conflict situations by definition involve two or more groups with conflicting goals, it is in the interests of leaders to enhance the distinctive identity, and thus the integrity and cohesiveness, of their group. This is especially the case within a fighting unit, where the need for in-group cooperation makes it essential for social identity to be augmented and the perceptions that individuals have of themselves as unique and autonomous downplayed. The image of the in-group must be enhanced, the out-group denigrated, and the difference between them emphasized. Effective action is more likely if it is seen as likely to be successful, and this depends on the morale of those involved, which in turn influences and is influenced by group processes, as discussed above. As long ago as 1800 the regulations for the British Rifle Corps laid down that every man should have a comrade, and that a family feeling and loyalty to comrades should be fostered (Richardson, 1978). More recently, unit leaders have been advised to exercise "professional paternalism" (Rodine, 1977). Camaraderie, kameradschaft, comradeship are seen as essential elements in morale though sometimes less effective on modern battlefields where men are widely dispersed.
Other differences from individual aggression arise from the fact that the very presence of other group members affects the behavior of each individual, with the internal dynamics of the group escalating or inhibiting tendencies towards violent action. In an unstructured group, individuals may be more ready to behave aggressively because of the arousal produced by the group situation or by the relative anonymity and sharing of responsibility bestowed by group membership. If the group values violence, individuals may assert themselves and show off by behaving aggressively, hoping thereby to rise in the esteem of their associates; but if the group is predisposed towards restraint, hot-heads may be inhibited. Because of the dialectical relations between the propensities of individuals and group norms, the aggressive potential of a group is not simply the sum of that of its members.
While many aspects of group aggression can be understood by regarding individuals as units in a collective, that is by no means the whole story. For one thing, long-standing cultural precedents may set the scene for violence (Liddell, Kemp & Moema, 1993). For another, there is likely to be some differentiation of roles even in quite small groups. The role of leaders may be critical. Leaders may achieve their position because they epitomize group values. or they may inculcate their own values into the group. They may represent the group in negotiations. In some circumstances, the psychology of the leaders may be crucial.
Beyond the differentiated leaders, the other individuals are not identical units and are likely to have very different personalities. In a study of violence in South African townships before the end of Apartheid, Straker (1992) identified the following types in the groups of "Youths".
- Leaders. Well-balanced, idealistic, dedicated, skilled, popular. Expressed independent views.
- Followers. Searching for a script as warrior heroes, attempting to achieve an ego-ideal. Labile. Could become leaders. Potentially reckless.
- Conduits. Lacked sense of self, and used group to define it. Could lead, but would not intervene or change course of group.
- Conformists. Motivated by social conformity rather than by ideals. Sought group acceptance, camaraderie, but passions not engaged.
- Psychological Casualties. Anti-social but might justify criminal acts as political. Perceived negatively by the group.
It will be apparent that many of the factors that influence individual aggression also influence group aggression, but additional social factors are also involved. While for some purposes groups can be personified and treated as individual entities, the dynamics of relationships within the groups may be as important as the relations between the groups. We shall see that individual aggression is of even less importance in institutionalised modern war.
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- Leaders. Well-balanced, idealistic, dedicated, skilled, popular. Expressed independent views.