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a) Similarity. For example similar backgrounds, ages, attitudes,
beliefs and interests. The more they have in common the more likely a
couple are to stay together.
b) Familiarity. The more a couple meet up the more attractive they
become to each another. In a 1968 study, Zajonc showed his
participants a large number of photographs. He found that there was a
positive correlation between the number of times a photograph was
shown and the attraction.
c) Physical Attractiveness. The 'halo effect' infers that people who
possess certain qualities have other good qualities. For example, if
they are pretty or handsome then they will be nice people.
The primacy effect means that when meeting people one is most likely
to notice physical appearances first.
Social exchange looks at the rewards and the costs of being in a
relationship. The rewards have to be greater than the costs. When one
is taking up too many of the other person's resources, the
relationship is not working.
Matching hypothesis. This is the idea that members of couples mostly
match one another in degrees of physical attractiveness.
Evolutionary psychology looks at attraction in terms of survival of
Aggression is regarded as anti-social behaviour and it is generally
considered to be behaviour that harms or intends to harm someone or
something. Aggression can be verbal as well as physical.
The Ethological Explanation
Ethology is the study of the behaviour of animals in their natural
Konrad Lorenz (1966) called aggression the 'fighting instinct' and he
believed that animals use aggression for:
b) to gain food
c) to gain a mate
d) to protect their territory
Ethologists believe that aggression is dissipated in the following
a) Threat gestures. These enable an animal to warn another animal that
it is prepared to fight. For example, the animal might bare its teeth
and its fur might stand on end.
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to point its horns. At this stage one animal might withdraw from the
situation. If not, the next stage is
b) Ritualised fighting. This is a type of fighting that shows a
stereotypical pattern for each species of animal. The fighting stops
before any serious injury occurs. For example, antelopes will lock
horns but will not gore each other.
c) Appeasement gestures. Appeasement gestures enable the animal to
indicate submission to the other one. The gesture will show the
animal's vulnerability. For example, with two fighting cats the loser
will turn around and show its neck to the winner to stop aggression
building up. Showing its neck puts the cat in a vulnerable position.
Lorenz suggests that these behaviours are innate eg behaviours that
are not learned but are instinctive to us and which have evolved
throughout the generations. Lorenz maintains that human beings possess
this survival instinct and that we are warriors and we are likely to
use aggression for survival.
However, the subject becomes more complex when studying human beings
because humans are potentially more deadly and dangerous. Moreover,
chimpanzees will kill their own species - including their own
offspring - and this weakens Lorenz's argument. One cannot adapt
animal studies and apply them to human behaviour because there are too
many variables and too many factors to take into account. In fact,
social factors might be seen as more influential than innate factors
when studying aggression.
The Biological Explanation
The biological explanation looks at the brain, hormones and chemicals.
Studies show that brain damage can change one's personality. For
example, the limbic system - a primitive part of the central nervous
system - is linked to aggression. In some animals damage to the limbic
system has increased aggression and decreased fear. Damage to an area
of the brain called the amygdala results in a change of personality.
One case study from 1966 tells of a man called Charles Whitman who
shot his mother, killed his wife and murdered more than a dozen
students at the University of Texas. Before his own demise he had
requested an autopsy be carried out on his body. He was found to have
a tumour near the part of the brain related to aggression. Therefore,
there could have been a biological explanation for his behaviour.
However, studies are not conclusive. Operations on the amygdala have
not only been shown to actually lessen aggression but to also to
Testosterone is linked with aggression. Males are often thought to be
aggressive because of their high levels of testosterone. Recent
studies show that violent criminals have higher levels of
testosterone. High levels are also found in non-violent criminals, eg
gang leaders who are aggressive in a passive way.
Critics of the biological explanation for aggression argue that
exponents fail to take into account social factors.
The Psychodynamic Explanation
In common with Lorenz, exponents of this theory believe that
aggression is innate. Freud maintained that we all possess life and
death instincts which he named libido and thanatos. Freud suggested
that we all have a self-destructive instinct. He argued that
aggressive urges build up within us and have to be released in order
to prevent a sudden explosion of aggression. Although our life and
death instincts conflict, they both need satisfying. Freud proposed
that the ego manages these two instincts and avoids self-destruction
directing aggression outwards. The aggression will then emerge in one
of the following three ways:
a) Sublimination - by channelling aggression into acceptable
activities such as sport.
b) Displacement - through transferring the aggression outwards onto
someone or something else.
c) Catharsis - through releasing the aggression by watching someone
else be aggressive ie by playing violent computer games, watching
violent films or watching a boxing match.
Dollard et al (1939) suggested that aggressive behaviour results from
frustration in our attempts to achieve personal goals. Similarly to
Freud's displacement theory, Dollard et al claimed that aggression can
be delayed or directed onto someone or something else. This could be
likened to finding a scapegoat and then behaving aggressively towards
someone or towards several people who are not the cause of the
Miller (1941) identified several reasons why individuals might not
display aggressive behaviour. He proposed that:
a) some people think it is wrong to behave aggressively
b) some people have learned not to show aggression
c) some people are afraid that the other person will be aggressive
The Social Learning Explanation
Exponents of this theory believe that aggression is not innate, that
it is learned behaviour and that children learn it by observing
others. For example, a child will observe and imitate his or her
parents or principle carers. When the child sees that the most
powerful person in his or her life is rewarded for aggressive
behaviour, the child will imitate that behaviour. The message is
reinforced when the mother or carer offers sweets as a bribe for good
behaviour. Bandura's study involving a bobo doll demonstrated how
children will copy the behaviour of adults. In this study, the
children observed adults behaving aggressively towards a doll. When
given a doll many of the children copied the aggressive behaviour. The
highest levels of aggression amongst the children were recorded when
they had seen the adult aggressors rewarded for their behaviour. When
the children saw the aggressor punished, they were less likely to copy
his behaviour. The children who saw no consequences for the aggressive
behaviour - neither reward nor punishment - still had high levels of
The ethological approach maintains that people can be trained to use
appeasement gestures. For example, to speak calmly, not to get
agitated and not to look the other person in the eye.
Also, ethologists claim that sport can be an outlet for aggression.
Biological methods include surgery such as castration. Whilst some
types of surgery have been used in the past, such drastic methods were
only really appropriate in extreme cases. Today there are ethical
considerations to be taken into account.
Exponents of the psychodynamic viewpoint advocate displacement such as
hitting a cushion, playing softball or using one's energy to do a
physical task such as digging the garden!
Social learning methods
The social learning approach to handling aggression argues that
observing non-aggressive models can reduce aggressive behaviour.
An adult who uses an aggressive method of punishing a child is showing
the child how to get people to do what they want by being aggressive.
Whilst the media shows aggressive models, it also shows non-aggressive
Sociologist Weber (1921) distinguished between three sources of a
a) Rational Authority - authority which someone has acquired because
they are logically the best person to be in charge, owing to their
possession of appropriate knowledge or other specific aptitudes.
b) Traditional Authority - authority which someone has acquired
because of their position in a relevant hierarchy, or because of their
social status, irrespective of their personal qualities.
c) Charismatic Authority - authority which someone has acquired
because of their distinctive personality or abilities.
Stodgill and Coons (1957) produced a model of leadership which
suggested that styles of leadership varied along two dimensions:
consideration and initiative structure. The consideration dimension
concerns how the leader relates to other people. The initiative
structure dimension concerns how the leader organises and structures
the tasks that his or her team has to perform, and also the amount of
task-related organisation and guidance that they give.
Lorzetta (1955) set up an experimental situation in which groups were
increasingly pressurised to complete their experimental tasks in an
unrealistically short length of time. This placed the groups under
immense stress and Lorzetta found that in these circumstances
aggressive people were more likely to emerge as group leaders.
Fireston et al (1975) used a method known as the leaderless group
discussion technique in which a group is set up without a formal
leader and the leadership behaviour of each member is assessed by
observers. Each of the 195 research participants were given a score
based on their potential as a leader. The research participants were
organised into groups of five. Each group then had to acquire a
leader. One-third of the groups held an election in order to choose a
leader. The leaders turned out to be the people who had attained the
highest scores as potential leaders. Another third of the groups held
elections but these were rigged so that the lowest scoring people were
elected as leaders. The final third of the groups were given leaders
appointed by the experimenters. The groups leaders in the final third
of the groups were randomly divided between high and low scoring
Fireston et al then set up a fake emergency in which one of the
members of the group (a confederate of the experimenters) appeared to
become ill. The groups were then observed to see if anyone would send
for help within a three-minute period. Of the thirteen groups with
genuine leaders eleven sent for help in the allotted time. The
observers reported that the leader seemed to be in charge in all the
thirteen groups with a genuinely elected leader. However, in the
groups with low-scoring leaders only three out of thirteen leaders
sent for help within three minutes and out of the groups with
externally appointed leaders only six out of thirteen leaders sent for
help within the allotted time.
Another type of leadership style was proposed by Lewin et al (1939).
They used a boys' after-school hobbies club to investigate the effects
of different approaches to leadership. Three different groups of boys
were making model aeroplanes. One group had an authoritarian leader
who dictated what the boys should do and supervised them closely. A
second group had a democratic leader who chatted with their boys and
discussed their work with them. The third group had a laissez-faire
leader who left the boys to themselves. The leaders were rotated every
seven weeks until each group had worked with each leader. The boys in
the group with the authoritarian leader tended to work independently
and in competition with one another and did not help each other out.
They worked hard whilst the leader was present but when he was out of
the room they would stop working. Those in the group with the
democratic leader worked consistently throughout but not as hard as
the boys in the first group. They did seem interested in what they
were doing and were cheerful and co-operative. The boys in the group
with the laissez-faire leader did not do much work at all and were
quarrelsome and restless. Lewin et al concluded that this showed that
democratic leaders were the most effective.
Smith and Peterson (1988) argued that the effectiveness of the group
leader depended on the criterion which was being used to assess
leadership. For example, if leadership was assessed in terms of
productivity then the authoritarian leader was most effective because
whilst he was supervising them the boys made more models and worked
harder. However, if the role of an effective leader was seen as
maintaining a good morale and a steady work level, then the democratic
style of leadership was most effective. That importance of leadership
was demonstrated by the third group in which few boys did any work at
all and the lack of direction from the leader resulted in low morale
and a lack of interest in the work. Rosenthal and Jacobson (1968)
showed that children's educational performance could be affected by
their teachers' expectations (self-fulfilling prophecy).
The importance of managers' expectations was emphasised in the
path-goal theory of leadership suggested by House (1971). This theory
argues that people will tend to live up to the expectations that the
leader has of them and that a good leader should see the people in his
or her team as adult, responsible human beings. House proposed that
workers respond most positively to leaders who respect them as
individuals and who recognise their own personal goals.