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Aggressive” and “Aggressive Behavior” redirect here. Aggression is overt, often harmful, social interaction with the intention of inflicting damage or other unpleasantness upon another individual. It may occur either in retaliation or without provocation. In humans, frustration due to blocked goals can cause aggression. In definitions commonly used in the social sciences and behavioral sciences, aggression is an action or response by an individual that delivers something unpleasant to another person.
Aggression can have adaptive benefits or negative effects. Aggressive behavior is an individual or collective social interaction that is a hostile behavior with the intention of inflicting damage or harm. Two broad categories of aggression are commonly distinguished. A number of classifications and dimensions of aggression have been suggested.
The operative definition of aggression may be affected by moral or political views. Examples are the axiomatic moral view called the non-aggression principle and the political rules governing the behavior of one country toward another. Biological approaches conceptualize aggression as an internal energy released by external stimuli, a product of evolution through natural selection, part of genetics, a product of hormonal fluctuations. Psychological approaches conceptualize aggression as a destructive instinct, a response to frustration, an affect excited by a negative stimulus, a result of observed learning of society and diversified reinforcement, a resultant of variables that affect personal and situational environments. The term aggression comes from the Latin word aggressio, meaning attack. The Latin was itself a joining of ad- and gradi-, which meant step at.
The first known use dates back to 1611, in the sense of an unprovoked attack. Ethologists study aggression as it relates to the interaction and evolution of animals in natural settings. In such settings aggression can involve bodily contact such as biting, hitting or pushing, but most conflicts are settled by threat displays and intimidating thrusts that cause no physical harm. Most ethologists believe that aggression confers biological advantages. Aggression may help an animal secure territory, including resources such as food and water. Aggression may also occur for self-protection or to protect offspring.
The most apparent type of interspecific aggression is that observed in the interaction between a predator and its prey. However, according to many researchers, predation is not aggression. An animal defending against a predator may engage in either “fight or flight” or “tend and befriend” in response to predator attack or threat of attack, depending on its estimate of the predator’s strength relative to its own. Aggression between groups is determined partly by willingness to fight, which depends on a number of factors including numerical advantage, distance from home territories, how often the groups encounter each other, competitive abilities, differences in body size, and whose territory is being invaded. Also, an individual is more likely to become aggressive if other aggressive group members are nearby. Aggression between conspecifics in a group typically involves access to resources and breeding opportunities.
One of its most common functions is to establish a dominance hierarchy. This occurs in many species by aggressive encounters between contending males when they are first together in a common environment. Conflicts between animals occur in many contexts, such as between potential mating partners, between parents and offspring, between siblings and between competitors for resources. Group-living animals may dispute over the direction of travel or the allocation of time to joint activities.
Various factors limit the escalation of aggression, including communicative displays, conventions, and routines. Other questions that have been considered in the study of primate aggression, including in humans, is how aggression affects the organization of a group, what costs are incurred by aggression, and why some primates avoid aggressive behavior. Like many behaviors, aggression can be examined in terms of its ability to help an animal itself survive and reproduce, or alternatively to risk survival and reproduction. This cost-benefit analysis can be looked at in terms of evolution. According to the male warrior hypothesis, intergroup aggression represents an opportunity for men to gain access to mates, territory, resources and increased status. As such, conflicts may have created selection evolutionary pressures for psychological mechanisms in men to initiate intergroup aggression.
Aggression can involve violence that may be adaptive under certain circumstances in terms of natural selection. This is most obviously the case in terms of attacking prey to obtain food, or in anti-predatory defense. Although aggressive encounters are ubiquitous in the animal kingdom, with often high stakes, most encounters that involve aggression may be resolved through posturing, or displaying and trial of strength. Game theory is used to understand how such behaviors might spread by natural selection within a population, and potentially become ‘Evolutionary Stable Strategies’. Gender plays an important role in human aggression. There are multiple theories that seek to explain findings that males and females of the same species can have differing aggressive behaviors. However the conditions under which women and men differ in aggressiveness are not well understood or studied.