There are different reasons why a person may act aggressively towards other human beings. The person may act this way because of his culture or the way he was brought up in society. The person does not, however, act this way based on instinct alone. Aggression is a molded, learned behavior. A human being must have both environmental and instinctual factors in order to display aggression. Some of a person’s natural instincts are to desire food, reject certain things, escape from danger, fight when challenged, sex desire, care for the young, dominate, and to accept inferior status. The combination of instincts and environment determines a person’s behavior. This is based on the theory that everything human beings do would have to be learned from other human beings. Aggression must be learned; it is not simply there from birth. Rather than being an uncontrollable instinct, a person’s behavior is something that is taught to him. For example, a newborn baby is breathing because it is an involuntary reflex. On the other hand, a father may tell his young son to beat up the school bully who is picking on him. As a result, the boy is taught to deal with the situation by using violence.
In order for an individual to display aggression, it must be driven by an instinct interacting with that person’s surroundings. McDougall defines the word instinct as “an inherited or innate psycho-physical disposition which determines its possessor to perceive, and to pay attention to, objects of a certain class, to experience an emotional excitement of a particular quality upon perceiving such an object, and to act in regard to its particular manner, or, at least, to experience an impulse to such action.” This definition basically explains that people have different reactions for different stimuli. Therefore, an individual is prone to act a certain way when he is stimulated to do so from his surrounding environment. For example, the Eskimo does not have an innate instinct that allows him to survive in his climate. He is taught to work with his people in order to survive when he is very young.
When people are brought up in a society, they learn certain customs and traditions. These customs are usually taught to them because it’s part of their society’s way of life, even though some of the customs may seem cruel and repulsive to others. For example, cannibalism is abhorrent to us, but in some primitive cultures, to eat an enemy is to gain his or her strength. This aggressive behavior was taught to the people of this culture and is the reason for its existence. People need to have exposure to aggressiveness in society in order to act aggressive. For example, there was a tribe in New Guinea, the fentou, who were fierce warriors that were always fighting and killing. The children of these people learned this hostility from their parents and then acted in the same way. A parent’s method of child rearing lays the foundation for aggression. The child rearing practices themselves are the overall design of a particular culture.
When a group of people are isolated, their behavior does not change unless they interact with other people. The Tasaday tribe is an example of a group of people who were completely isolated. They showed no signs of aggression due to the fact that they had no words for weapon, hostility, anger or war. The Tasaday were a food gathering tribe and had no use for weapons. The tribe only used knives and other things that might be classified as weapons as tools to gather food. They also rejected the spear and the bow and arrow because they could not use them to gather food. There could not have been anything in their genetic makeup that made them act in an aggressive or peaceful manner. This was their way of life that was taught from generation to generation, and the tribe did what was needed to survive.
The origin of human aggression lies in factors such as society and culture. Aggression is a learned emotion that is built on different factors in a person’s environment. It is the combination of environment, society and culture that creates aggressive behavior. It is the person’s natural instincts that are the foundation for the three. The Tasaday tribe was a peaceful group of people, while the Fentou were aggressive warriors. Both of the tribes had the ability for aggression and passivity but were driven to one by their environment, society and culture.
AGGRESSION IN MAN
John Di Pippo
What it Means for us Today.