Social Psychology

Student Learning Program

Chapter 13: Aggression, conflict, and human nature (pp. 474476)

Ask Yourself?

In this topic

  1. Defining Conflict and Aggression (pp. 474475)
  2. Origins of Aggression (pp. 475476)
Defining Conflict and Aggression

Conflict is defined as a perceived incompatibility of goals. Conflict can be acted out in various ways. The word "aggression" is used in a lot of different ways in everyday speech, but for social psychologists this term is defined by the motive of the actor.

Aggression is behavior whose immediate intent is to hurt someone. It is defined by a behavior's immediate goal, even when the ultimate goal is something else. Conflict often leads to aggression, but aggression also has other origins, for example negative emotions such as anger or frustration.

Origins of Aggression

A popular evolutionary explanation of aggression is the "beast within" view. According to this view, "survival of the fittest" has bred aggression in human beings. It is thus "human nature" to be aggressive. Modern evolutionary psychology has a more sophisticated view. This view states that "human nature" includes a lot of psychological mechanisms and motives. Men are generally more physically and verbally aggressive than women. Aggression is just one technique among many others that humans use as they strive for mastery of material resources, as well as for respect from and connectedness to others.

So what does this mean?

Conflict is seen as the perceived incompatibility of goals, where what is wanted by one group may be against the desires of another group. Aggression is defined by social psychologists as a behaviour whose immediate intent is to hurt someone. Conflicts between two parties often lead to aggression.

An evolutionary view of aggression shows that this is one technique among many others that humans use as they strive for mastery of material recourses, as well as respect and connectedness to others. Both individual thoughts and social influences affect the experience and expression of aggression.

Next topic

Interpersonal aggression

In this chapter

  1. Chapter 13 introduction
  2. Aggression, conflict, and human nature
  3. Interpersonal aggression
  4. Intergroup conflict
  5. Chapter overview (PDF)
  6. Fill-in-the-blanks
  7. Multiple-choice questions