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"Man must evolve for all human conflict is a method which rejects revenge, aggression and retaliation. the foundation of such a method is love." Martin Luther King, Jr. (1929-1968)

Jen Taylor & Josh Nellist

Biological Functions

Twin Studies
Adoption Studies
Brain Functions

Social and
Environmental Factors

Social Factors
Environmental Factors

Treatment for excessive aggression






Frustration-Aggression Relationship

Where does anger come from? Biological causes aside, another theory is the frustration-aggression relationship. Published in 1939 by Yale University social scientists, this theory posits that all aggressive acts can be traced back to a previous frustration. Frustration has been defined as, "an external barrier that keeps someone from attaining a goal or the pleasures he or she had expected to enjoy," and "an internal emotional reaction that arises from the thwarting." According to Leonard Berkowitz in his book, Aggression: Itís Causes, Consequences and Controls, how strong the instigation caused by the frustration is, is directly proportionate to the amount of satisfaction they had expected and failed to receive. Further, there is greater tendency towards aggressive acts the more satisfaction the aggressor had expected, the more completely they're kept from receiving it, and the more often attempts at receiving it are hindered.

For example, in a football game, each team tries equally hard to attain their goal, winning the game, by making various attempts at passes, touchdowns, and field goals. As one play runs down the field catching a forward pass, he is tackled by a member of the opposing team. Does he become aggressive and assault the tackler? Under normal circumstances, no, heís barely even frustrated, especially if it is early in the game. This is because the intensity of aggression is proportionate to the expected satisfaction. Early in the game when the goal of winning is relatively far off, the amount of satisfaction weighing on one pass is relatively small, and therefore so is the amount of frustration at being tackled. More frustration might be apparent if the player had been attempting a touchdown in the last minute that might win the game.

While the frustration-aggression relationship seems to be a logical explanation for many social causes of aggression, its original statement fails to take into account the differences between emotional and instrumental types of aggression. Whereas emotional aggression may be caused by frustration, instrumental aggression is more conditioned. Aggressive acts are performed because it has been seen that they pay off for others. Therefore, to clear up ambiguity, formal statement of the theory has been narrowed to, "a barrier to expected goal attainment generates an instigation to emotional aggression."