The Frustration-Aggression Hypothesis

Aggression types and nature:
Aggression is a type of behavior and not a feeling, unlike anger. In psychological categories, aggression can be of different types depending on its response elements or attributes. These are as follows:

• Physical aggression- This includes physically hurting an individual through actions such as hitting, biting, kicking, clubbing, stabbing, shooting.

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• Nonphysical aggression- This type of aggression does not include any form of physical contact. Two main types of non-physical aggression are:

• Verbal aggression includes spoken words as a form of aggressive behavior, e.g. screaming, swearing, yelling, name-calling; and Relational aggression that comprises social aggressiveness. Here a person can bring about harm to another person by hampering their social image, position, or relation by using rumors, false news, or other socially harmful gestures through verbal or digital forms.

• Direct aggression- This is when aggressive behavior is presented in front of the target of such behavior.

• Indirect aggression- This kind of aggressive behavior takes place in the absence of the victim, by bringing physical harm to things related to the target or employing non-physical aggression.

• Impulsive or emotional aggression- Aggression that is driven mainly by impulse and is not premeditated, planned, or intentionally carried out, comes under this category. For instance, Yelling from anger, emotional outburst, sudden aggression due to external aggravation.

• Violence- This is an extreme form of aggression that involves severe harm that can even lead to death.

• Cognitive aggression- This type of aggressive behavior is usually calculated and planned. It is premeditated and is usually with a predetermined motive. E.g. terrorist activity, money laundering, corrupt political moves for gaining power.

• Cyberbullying- This is a new form of internet-based aggression on individuals and is mediated by virtual platforms like social media, websites, online forums, etc.

The Frustration-Aggression Hypothesis:
There are various social psychological theories of aggression. One of the earliest theories was called The Frustration-Aggression Hypothesis and it was put forward in 1939 by Dollard and his colleagues. According to this, frustration is a driving force behind aggressive behavior. Psychoanalytic theory-based assumptions were used to suggest that when a person’s goal is blocked it gives rise to frustration which in turn stimulates an act of aggression. However, it was evident from further studies that frustration alone cannot be the causative agent of aggression or the mere presence of frustration does not mean an aggressive behavior will certainly occur. The theory was hence later modified to including coping mechanisms and responses to frustration that could be both aggressive or non-aggressive.

Classical conditioning theory:
Next, the learning theories were propounded as a root cause of aggression. Before discussing this theory, it is however important to know the concepts of classical conditioning and operant conditioning. Pavlov put forth the concept of classical conditioning which involves associating one thing with another. Later Thorndike and Skinner, built on it and proposed the operant conditioning concept which implies that people tend to repeat behaviors that are rewarded rather than those that are punished. Now, in the context of aggressive behavior, it was hypothesized that positive reinforcement of aggressive behaviors could invoke more such actions. Moreover, aggression could also be a result of observational learning.

Another school of thought is aggression due to excitation-transfer theory (ETT) and cognitive arousal. According to this a person exposed to an angry individual, under conditions where they are aroused, there might be a tendency to attribute that arousal as aggressive behavior

The Social Information Processing (SIP) theory and Script:
The Social Information Processing (SIP) theory and Script theory were the first among modern theories of aggression. SIP theory suggests that hostile attributional bias has a role to play in people’s perception of others’ behavior and its attributes. Script theory proposes the use of scripts or defined guides to a particular situation and the appropriate behavior for them. A behavior of aggression is also a part of this.


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