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Nature
verses Nurture is an age-old debate that has had Psychologists and Sociologists
arguing for generations the aggression levels in humans are said to be either
inherited genetically (Nature) or learned from the environment you have been
socialised into, this is the nature- nurture concept. Oxford defined aggression
as “Feelings of anger or antipathy resulting in hostile or violent
behaviour; readiness to attack or confront” and in this essay, I will be
looking at the main studies into aggressive behaviours and weather nature or
nurture or a combination of both have influenced the subject.

 

 

Case
Study

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Peter is
seventeen and in with a bad crowd. They terrify everyone in the neighbourhood.
His parents don’t seem to be able to do anything with him.

His father
drinks a lot and neighbours think he abuses his wife and children.

The boys
knock passers-by off the pavement, break windows, steal garden decorations,
shop lift and are generally violent and aggressive.

They paint
racist slogans everywhere and beat up some of the young ‘fellas’. They also
round up the youngsters and encourage them to help with pestering the local
shop keepers, by breaking their goods or stealing their sweets and cigarettes
off the counters. The local community leaders are asking the police to
intervene and bring these ‘hooligans’ under control.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

What causes
his aggression can be divided into two areas of study:

Environmental
Learning (Nurture) Or Genetic Programming (Nature)

Through our
case study we have learned that Peters father consumes alcohol readily and is
suggested to beat his wife (Peter’s mother). If Peter has witnessed this, he
may feel that this is an acceptable way to react when someone provokes you. By
Modelling his father’s behaviour peters aggression can be deemed as socially
learned from his environment. Albert Bandura supports that aggression can be
learned as “humans are active information processors and think about the
relationship between their behaviour and its consequences. Observational
learning could not occur unless cognitive processes were at work.”(Bandura
1977). In 1961 Albert Bandura conducted an experiment where he purposed the
question, can aggressive behaviour be learned by observation? In this
experiment he selected 72 children (36 females and 36 males aged between 37 and
69 months) to watch two adult role models (1 male and one female) in 3 separate
scenarios. The children were split into 3 control groups:

• A non-
aggressive condition- these children witnessed no aggressive or violent
behaviour from their role model towards the Bobo Doll just simplistic playing.
(24 children viewed this)

• An
aggressive condition- These children witnessed their role model play fighting
and using other toys to beat and hit the Bobo doll. (24 children viewed this)

 • A control condition- these children
witnessed nothing. (24 children viewed this)

 

These groups
where then divided again. This time into male and female 6 males and 6 females
for example in the non-aggressive control group viewed a female model, while
the remaining 12 children viewed the male model,

Bandura
aggressively stimulated the sample group to cause an already heightened
reaction to the scenarios being shown. This was done by allowing the children
to play with a toy and then abruptly taking it away from them. The children
where then one by one allowed into the room that they had witnessed a model in
earlier and their reactions were observed for 20 minutes. It was found that
“Children who observed the aggressive model made far more imitative
aggressive responses than those who were in the non-aggressive or control
groups”. “The girls in the aggressive model condition also showed
more physical aggressive responses if the model was male, but more verbal
aggressive responses if the model was female. Boys were more likely to copy
same-sex models than girls. Boys where more physically aggressive than girls
“McLeod, S. A. (2014).

 

 

 

 

There were some short falls in
Bandura’s research:

 

·        
Bandura
exaggerated the extent to which children imitate the behaviour of models.

 

 

·        
Children
are likely to imitate aggressive behaviour towards a doll

 

·        
But
less likely to imitate aggressive behaviour towards another child. Bandura
continually failed to distinguish between real aggression and play fighting and
it is likely that much of the aggressive behaviour observed by Bandura was only
play fighting. – Durkin (1995)

 

·        
The
Bobo doll is of interest to young children because it has a weighted base and
so bounces back up when it is knocked down. Its novelty value is important. It’s
fun!

 

·        
Cumberbatch
(1990) reported that children who were unfamiliar with the doll were five times
more likely to initiate aggressive behaviour against it than children who had
played with it before.

 

·        
There
is the problem of demand characteristics. The participants guessed what they
were supposed to do Durkin (1995) “Where else in life does a 5-year-old
find a powerful adult actually showing you how to knock hell out of a dummy and
then giving you the opportunity to try it out yourself?”

 

·        
The
Bobo doll experiment provided cues which invited the participants to behave in
certain predictable ways (www.thestudentroom.co.uk/attachment.php?attachmentid=48094…)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Peter has
also been said to have fallen in with a bad crowd, terrifying people in his
neighbourhood and vandalising everywhere they go. This may be because peter has
taken on a group mentality and is conforming to what is happening in that
group. Conformity is a form of social influence where people adopt the
behaviour, attitudes and values of other members of a majority position
(McClelland 2017. As Peter is only 17 he may be easily influenced by what his
environment presents him, for example he may feel pressure by his friends that
if he doesn’t do these aggressive acts he will be expelled from the group, he
is trying to identify with the people in his ‘crowd’ to build relationships and
accepts their views as to be a recognised member of that group. In 1936 Sherif
ran a study of conformity inambiguous situations, He believed that people
conform to group norms when they are put in an unclear or ambiguous situation
Sherif used a lab experiment to study conformity He used the auto kinetic effect
a visual Illusion In which a small spot of light (projected onto a screen) in a
dark room will appear to move, even though it Is still. participants where
asked ‘did the light move?’ The participants were asked this question 3 times
in 3 different scenarios.

In private
as a part of a group upon hearing others answers first. It was found that
people changed their answers after hearing others, therefore conforming to a
group Sherifs study was seen with very ecological value as its ambiguity took
away from its real-life credibility. Solomon Asch (1956) Ran an experiment to
dispute sherifs findings and had said “there was no correct answer to the
ambiguous auto kinetic experiment. How could we be sure that a person conformed
when there was no correct answer?” he then devised an experiment with an
obvious answer. The line experiment, 50 male students were asked to say which
line matched the first. Each person had to state aloud which line they thought
most closely represented the target line. Over 12 trials 75% conformed at least
once. Limitations to Asch’s study was the biased all male sample meaning his
findings cannot be generalised to women or older people Crutchfield 1954 used a
method of studying conformity that was much more efficient and ethical than
that used by Asch. It was more practical because many participants could be
tested quickly on a large variety of tasks. It was more ethical because
participants were not put in such an embarrassing situation and his findings
suggested that Rates of conformity were still very high even when participants
thought they were giving their answers in private.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Peter’s
aggression can also be looked at from a biological point of view. At 17 (The
height of puberty) Hormones in the body will be going wild. In 1995 Nelson
reviewed research into how hormones influence aggression and generally there is
a positive correlation between the male sex hormone testosterone (also known as
androgens) and aggressive behaviour. Nelson discovered that an increase in
androgen levels cause spikes in aggression levels but is not known the exact
levels that an aggressive reaction occurs during an event. During puberty these
hormone levels are higher possibly causing Peters aggressive behaviour. In 1979
Wagner and others experimented on mice to prove this theory. They castrated a
mouse its aggression levels typically reduce. if the castrated mouse then
receives testosterone their aggression levels increase. Although Mice and
humans are different the basic principles are the same. The basal model of
testosterone suggests that individuals with a higher level of testosterone will
often be more dominant. This study also states that a man with prominent levels
of testosterone will be more inclined to take part in antisocial behaviour.
Mazur and Booth reviewed many studies of this kind and found that men with high
levels of androgens are ‘more likely to divorce or live a bachelor life style,
be arrested for violent crimes or offences, to buy and sell stolen property, be
in debt and or be involved in fights with weapons.’ His aggressive behaviours
can also be linked to his predisposed anger levels.

Genetically
Peter may be more inclined to be aggressive. Sigmund Freud states that within
each of us there is a light (Eros) and Dark (Thanatos) side that compete with
one another for the dominance inside the brain. If Eros is dominant the
individual tends to be calmer unlike if Thanatos is greater aggression levels
are increased and leads to acts of violence, suicide etc. It may be possible
that Peter has a more dominant dark side and therefore is genetically more
aggressive.                                                                                                                          
Konrad Lorenz also has a biological view that every person’s aggression level
builds up within and if not released can lead to aggressive acts, this may mean
that Peter has no way to release this building aggression therefore he lashes
out and acts aggressively.

In
conclusion of the evidence reviewed in the above studies, Peter’s behaviour may
be in part explained by the way he was born but he is also influenced by what
happens around him. A combination of social learning theory, conformity,
genetic makeup and hormone reactions, Nature and Nurture both play a large part
in a person’s behavioural make up and therefore one or the other cannot be
proven more effective as every human is different and their aggression may
spike at different stimuli and act out in different ways. The Nature Verses
Nurture theory still fails to provide a definitive answer to whether a person
is more affected by their genetics or their upbringing.

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