Is aggression driven by nature or nurture? | Nelumbo Consultancy

Is aggression driven by nature or nurture?

Author : Date : 04/23/2018

The dispute between nature and nurture is a long-standing one. An aspect of this would be whether aggression is driven by our biological make-up or by the way society has shaped us. Aggression is an attractive trait to some extent, according to some psychologists, as it suggests that an individual is powerful and protective. However, abnormal aggression can lead to personality disorders and other illnesses that may have serious consequences to the individual and to society. The question is whether abnormal anger is due to our genetics or if it is due to the way we are brought up and what we experience.

In support of nature, biological psychologists have done a lot of research into the human brain revealing parts such as the pre-frontal cortex and the limbic system which are scientifically proven to be involved in the process of anger. The pre-frontal cortex is involved with emotions and has high levels of synapses with neurotransmitters such as dopamine, serotonin and norepinephrine. It regulates behaviour and governs social interaction. Research has been done where psychologists have taken many brain-damage case studies and found that when the pre-frontal cortex is damaged, the individual can become very impulsive, impatient and aggressive which clearly shows that abnormal anger is somewhat influenced by the pre-frontal cortex. The limbic system is involved in self-preservation and the ‘fight or flight’ response. It consists of the amygdala which is the centre of emotions and motivation. It combines information from our external senses and internal feelings and provides our instinctive reaction to a situation. Psychologist Downer (1961), has carried out many experiments to show the involvement of the amygdala in anger. One of his most famous studies was carried out on monkeys where he found a significant increase in aggression and violence when the amygdala was stimulated with an electrical current and a significant reduction in fear and aggression when the amygdala was removed making the monkeys much more friendly. This study proves that aggression is stimulated by our biological make-up and shows how our brain is structured but, is it the only thing that influences aggressive behaviour?

In support of nurture, many psychologists argue that anger issues surface by the way we are influenced by the environment, the way we are brought up and the way we have experienced certain events in our lives. This includes role models and socialisers. Our role models and socialisers, such as our parents, heavily influence what we become as a person. For example, violent and aggressive role models and parents would result in the individual admiring violence and aggression and therefore copying the actions provided by their role models. This is proven by the social-learning theory. The influence that our role models have on us drastically changes who we are as a person. The same concept applies to media as well. For example, admirers of violent characters that are shown as charismatic or heroic in movies and TV shows may be influenced to emulate their hero and so become aggressive. Other experiences such as violent video games may lead a person to be more aggressive too. This is scientifically proven by a study that found gamers who play violent games show a lower reaction to negative images compared to a control group. This suggests that individuals that are heavily influenced by violent games may think of aggressive acts as normal behaviour and are more inclined to carry them out. These experiences and lifestyles shape a human being and over time may permanently alter an individual’s brain and mindset which consequently leads to illness and personality disorders.

There are many arguments for and against the fact that aggression is influenced by nature or nurture with case studies and research to back them up. However, the majority of common psychological opinion agrees that aggression is influenced by our biological structure as much as it is influenced by our social surroundings and experiences.


Disclaimer about blog- All contents within the Nelumbo Consultancy (NC) website is provided for general information only and should not be treated as a substitute for the advice of a doctor, counsellor, psychologist, psychiatrist etc. You should always consult if you are concerned about your mental health. NC is not responsible or a liable for any diagnosis made by a user based on the content within the NC website.

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