The effects of environmental stressors on aggressive behaviour?

Temperature is a potential source of stress which leads to aggressive behaviour. Temperature may be casually linked to other external factors, which are in turn casually linked to aggressive behaviour. One such explanation is routine activity theory as proposed by Cohen and Felson (1970), which states that opportunities for interpersonal aggression increase in summer as people change their pattern of routine activity. For example they are likely to be more outdoors hence coming into more contact with other people. Increase in alcohol consumption during hot weathers may further compound this.

Another example which could be given is when being stuck in a train. Imagine the journey is still long to go and the train is packed with people close together. There is loud music playing people laughing loud next to your ears. There is no way out for you. This is exactly the point this theory is making. At times such as this aggressive behaviour is displayed but when a slight possibility of escape is possible then both escape and aggressive behaviour are displayed.

Anderson 1987

Anderson examined aggression related to the hotness over the years. He reviewed violent and non-violent crimes in the USA between 1971 and 1980, related to the season and year. Temperature measures were taken from 240 weather stations. Violent crimes were particularly frequent in the summer and hotter years resulted in higher crime rates. These figures were particularly true for violent crimes.

A02: Criticisms

1. There is research evidence into temperature done by Boron and Bell. They conducted a laboratory study that measured levels of aggression by the intensity of electric shocks participants believed they were giving to others. They found a curvilinear relationship in that aggression increased up to about 34 degrees and then decreased. Boron theory is supported by labourtory studies but not by real life correlation ones. This is not easy to explain. Laboratory studies lack ecological validity and do not measure real life aggression. 2. Boron and Ransberger (1978) in a naturalistic correlation study found that violence was highest around 29 degrees, but it then declined as the weather got hotter. As this was a loabortory experiment, it lacks ecological validity. On the other hand the real life situations the stimuli that provoke people are more intense and therefore more likely to stimulate aggression.

3. The apparent rise in violent crime during summer months may be due to other factors other than temperature. People are out on the streets more in summer – there is greater social contact hence more opportunity for assault, rape and homicide. Homicides peaks in the hottest days of summer, and during the Christmas holidays – some of the coldest days of the year. Moghaddam (1998) found that people see more of each other over Christmas, particularly friends and relatives. Victims of homicide are usually known to the killer – therefore it may also be a better explanation to suggest the social contact.

A01- Noise

Noise is a form of stress which has been defined as ‘unwanted sound’, which brings about a negative response. Sounds are experienced as too loud and as unpredictable usually produce the negative response. However predictable sounds, such as the clock ticking, doesn’t tend to noise typically produces stress as Cohen et al (1980) studied the stress levels of children living under flight path under Los Angeles airport, in comparison with a matched of children living in quieter environments. The children near the airport showed more signs of chronic, long-term stress.

Geen and O’Neal (1969) Procedures

They examined how noise influenced aggression. They showed violent and non-violent film clips to participant. Participants were then told that they could evaluate the work of another person in a nearby room by giving him electric shocks (these were actually fake). One group gave shocks in a noisy environment, whereas the other group did so in a normal environment. The noise background group who had watched the violent .gave more shocks than the other conditions. (Findings)

Conclusions It would seem that only the violent film/ noise combination caused aggression, not the noise level by itself. A02 – Criticisms + 1) noise does not cause aggression directly. As studies have shown, noise can contribute to aggression, but only when the person is altered frustrated or angered. Therefore it appears to have face validity. – 2) People who believe that they can control the levels of noise do not appear to become aggressive. This occurs even when they do actually experience loud noise and do actually control it. Their belief that they can control the noise is important in rewarding aggression.

These studies are all valid to a certain extent as they are all naturalistic experiments and therefore demand characteristic are not a factor in the findings. However, these studies are mostly correlational, as they do not state a link between …

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