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Are Humans Naturally Violent

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Autor:   •  December 9, 2012  •  Research Paper  •  2,020 Words (9 Pages)  •  1,570 Views

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Are Humans Naturally Violent

Are humans pre-disposed to behave violently, or are our violent tendencies due to the external factors of our society? Violent behavior is fascinating to our society. On one hand we promote peace and turning the other cheek to violence, yet in the same day we stand around in a group egging on a fight between angry men. There is debate whether we behave violently with cause, or without cause. Sigmund Freud believed that we are inherently violent, that as part of human nature we are predisposed to act violently, yet many now hold the belief that external motivation is the cause. Numerous authorities now suggest that societal influences lead to violence and it cannot be a natural or biological part of humans but a learned reaction that can be controlled with effort. Our violent tendencies could be a response to frustration and aggressiveness. Some agree that it is scientifically incorrect to say that biology predisposes us to be violent. But be honest, no matter how hard we try to not think badly about someone, when someone aggravates us we naturally think negatively about them, which often leads to violence.

Sigmund Freud was one of the first scientists to delve into the psychological aspects of human aggression. He concluded that aggressive behavior is the human expression of energy that is created by the death instinct. It was Freud's belief that it is "the organism's wish to return to the state of nothingness whence it emerged... the stronger the death instinct in a person, the more necessary is it for that person to direct aggression outward against objects and people" (Buss, 1961: 185) Basically Freud said we all hold an unconscious desire to die because of the innate aggression in ourselves and when it is focused outward it is expressed as a form of violence. According to Freud, the only way to satisfy it, to keep ourselves from imploding to all that anger, is catharses, watching or participating in violent events involving anger. Researchers have also been discovering that people are biologically predisposed to violence through experiments with animals. "Data from the five long-term sites with neighboring groups show that intergroup aggression is a pervasive feature of chimpanzee societies" (Wilson & Wrangham, 2003). Studies of primates are then compared to our own human species because we are also believed to be animals of instinct when it comes to violence. One of the chief advocates of this method was Konrad Lorenz, who, in his book On Aggression (1966), defined violence as "the fighting instinct in beast and man which is directed against members of the same species...aggression is an instinct as any other, and in natural conditions it helps just as much as any other to ensure the survival of the individual and the species."

Two major contenders of innate violence are the Frustration-Aggression hypothesis (1939) and the Seville Statement on Violence (1986). The frustration-aggression theory states that frustration can produce many different responses, one of which is aggression. If the strongest type of frustration is the one that produces aggression, then a violent response will be the first reaction that is expressed. Research illustrates that if an aggressive behavior proves successful in eliminating the frustration, then the aggressive behavior is likely to be repeated. However, if the strongest frustration is contradictory to a violent response, then less aggressive responses will be expressed, and violence will be repressed. Furthermore, if these non-violent expressions provide a reduction in the initial frustration then, just like the aggressive behaviors, they will be repeated and violent responses are bound to be reduced. The Seville Statement was founded by a group of scientists that were convened by the Spanish National Commission for UNESCO, in Seville, Spain, in 1986. The statement concludes that biology is not responsible for the violent tendencies of humans. It states that "It is scientifically incorrect to say that war or any other violent behavior is genetically programmed into our human nature." (1986: 6)

I believe that humans are not naturally violent without external stimulus, however they naturally respond violently to aggressiveness. Aggression and anger might be natural instincts, but aggressive tendencies do not necessarily indicate innate violence. I believe that it is natural for us to respond to external frustrations with a certain amount of aggression. Without these external influences there is no reason to for people to act out violently. If there is no cause for a reaction, then there is no reason to expect a reaction, violent or otherwise. Personally, I know that if I am driving passively on a highway and a random vehicle cuts in front of me disrupting my driving, I am most likely to respond with vehemence and aggression. It is only after my initial response that I calm down enough to respond to the situation without violence. It comes down to our basic "fight or flight" mentality. In a harmful situation without a chance for "flight" our natural instinct is to "fight" as a response to a threat. We are capable of overcoming instincts like "fight or flight" by choosing a third option of ignoring a threat or walking away. We can do this if we either do not recognize that there is a threat to begin with, or we have been trained to control our emotions and reactions. We do have a conscious control of our actions which is how we can stop ourselves from succumbing to violence but violence is our immediate response to instances that upset us.

I agree with the frustration-aggression hypothesis to an extent, however, I do not agree that "the occurrence of aggression always presupposes the existence of frustration and, contrariwise, that the existence of frustration always leads to some form of aggression." (Miller, 1941) As humans, we are incredibly diverse


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