Aggression Is A Result of Self-Control, Not Lack Thereof
Summary: A new study contests the belief that aggression stems from poor self-control. Instead, it suggests that aggression is often a deliberate, controlled act, inflicted to maximize retribution.
This finding, based on meta-analysis of multiple psychology and neurology studies, contradicts the traditional approach of treating violent tendencies by boosting self-control. It implies that such interventions may even enable some people to better execute their aggressive instincts.
- Aggression does not necessarily arise from poor self-control. Instead, it can be a calculated act of retribution, requiring self-discipline to carry out effectively.
- Evidence suggests that self-control training programs do not necessarily reduce violent tendencies.
- Research indicates that the brain’s prefrontal cortex, a center of self-control, shows increased activity during aggression, further debunking the association between poor self-control and aggression.
Source: Virginia Commonwealth University
A new study by a Virginia Commonwealth University researcher has found that aggression is not always the product of poor self-control but, instead, often can be the product of successful self-control in order to inflict greater retribution.
The new paper, “Aggression As Successful Self-Control,” by corresponding author David Chester, Ph.D., an associate professor of social psychology in the Department of Psychology at VCU’s College of Humanities and Sciences, was published by the journal Social and Personality Psychology Compass and uses meta-analysis to summarize evidence from dozens of existing studies in psychology and neurology.
“Typically, people explain violence as the product of poor self-control,” Chester said. “In the heat of the moment, we often fail to inhibit our worst, most aggressive impulses. But that is only one side of the story.”
Indeed, Chester’s study found that the most aggressive people do not have personalities characterized by poor self-discipline and that training programs that boost self-control have not proved effective in reducing violent tendencies. Instead, the study found ample evidence that aggression can arise from successful self-control.
“Vengeful people tend to exhibit greater premeditation of their behavior and self-control, enabling them to delay the gratification of sweet revenge and bide their time to inflict maximum retribution upon those who they believe have wronged them,” Chester said. “Even psychopathic people, who comprise the majority of people who commit violent offenses, often exhibit robust development of inhibitory self-control over their teenage years.”
Aggressive behavior is reliably linked to increased – not just decreased – activity in the brain’s prefrontal cortex, a biological substrate of self-control, Chester found. The findings make it clear that the argument that aggression is primarily the product of poor self-control is weaker than previously thought.
“This paper pushes back against a decades-long dominant narrative in aggression research, which is that violence starts when self-control stops,” Chester said. “Instead, it argues for a more balanced, nuanced view in which self-control can both constrain and facilitate aggression, depending on the person and the situation.”
The findings also argue for more caution in the implementation of treatments, therapies and interventions that seek to reduce violence by improving self-control, Chester said.
“Many interventions seek to teach people to inhibit their impulses, but this new approach to aggression suggests that although this may reduce aggression for some people, it is also likely to increase aggression for others,” he said. “Indeed, we may be teaching some people how best to implement their aggressive tendencies.”
The findings surprised Chester, a psychologist whose team frequently studies the causes of human aggression.
“Over the years, much of our research was guided by the field’s assumption that aggression is an impulsive behavior characterized by poor self-control,” he said. “But as we started to investigate the psychological characteristics of vengeful and psychopathic people, we quickly realized that such aggressive individuals do not just have self-regulatory deficits; they have many psychological adaptations and skills that enable them to hurt others by using self-control.”
Chester and his team plan to continue exploring questions around aggression and self-control based on the study’s findings.
“Our research going forward is now guided by this new paradigm shift in thinking: that aggression is often the product of sophisticated and complex mental processes and not just uninhibited impulses,” Chester said.
Funding: This research was supported by a grant from the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, part of the National Institutes of Health.
About this psychology and aggression research news
Author: Mary Brogan
Source: Virginia Commonwealth University
Contact: Mary Brogan -Virginia Commonwealth University
Image: The image is credited to Neuroscience News
Original Research: Closed access.
“Aggression as successful self-control” by David Chester. Social and Personality Psychology Compass
Aggression as successful self-control
A dominant narrative is that aggression starts when self-control stops – unchecked aggressive impulses manifest in violence as self-control fails to inhibit them.
Yet this ‘low self-control syndrome’ approach to aggression fails to accommodate numerous findings in which aggression arises from successful self-control.
I summarize these key findings while identifying how current theories of aggression can be molded to accommodate them.
This balanced perspective, which allows aggression to arise from successful and unsuccessful self-control, suggests exciting new hypotheses alongside confounding questions for aggression and self-regulation scholars.
It also supports ongoing and broader paradigm shifts away from treating self-control as a purely adaptive and desirable psychological capacity and toward approaching self-control interventions with greater care, as they may amplify aggression instead of reducing it, with costly consequences.
Neuroscience News posts science research news from labs, universities, hospitals and news departments around the world. Science articles cover neuroscience, psychology, AI, robotics, neurology, brain cancer, mental health, machine learning, autism, Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s, brain research, depression and other sciences.
I’d argue that in many cases- in fact most or even all, aggression is an attempt to regain or maintain control of a situation, which explains why those areas of the brain light up. The reason it’s viewed as a lack of control is because it’s not a good coping strategy. Ultimately it often makes the situation worse, leading to further loss of control over the situation (not one’s self), which can lead to further aggression to try to take that control back. They need to be able to cope with not having things go their way. This article seems to miss that point.
The study fails to include the cult/voice-based human manipulation creation of alter-identities that yes would be highly self-controlled with a corresponding loss of self-control by the primary identity – the phenomena that creates 10-year-old school shooters that then cry mommy mommy I don’t understand but I would do it again.
This is the dumbest article I have ever read violence is inherent self control reigns it in …..I’m a bit of a expert on the topic …..
I find it interesting how so many people lump things into a category. I believe that with all things there are many factors to take in consideration. This is with all things in life.
To say a person is aggressive because they either lack or possess control is ignorant.
Many people have reasons that can trigger them and a lot of those reasons can stem from severe childhood abuse, either/both mental or physical.
Some people take meds that can help control the anger and some people take meds that only taper the aggression. Looping everyone into categories such as this article is frustrating
“Evidence suggests that [X] training programs do not necessarily reduce [Y] tendencies”. And often have the direct opposite effect. Can we start admitting that virtually all training programs are failures? Anti-racist interventions create super-racists, anger management creates super-angry people, and so on.
At this point, therapy should be outlawed.
This is something a lot of theorists have known for a long time. Beliefs are a huge factor in driving behavior. Feeling that the use of violence is justified (or even helpful) in a given situation is ultimately what underpins most aggressive behavior.
When I saw the Will Smith smack and saw the public’s reaction I could see how the programming was in full effect. Love also has the face of anger. I agree with the article.
This article is just another piece of evidence that we live degenerate society. I don’t care how many letters you have behind your name, truth is truth and lies are lies. And this article is far from the truth.
I think there are two types of people in this regard: 1. People who reactively lash out when angered and just attack. 2. People who are outwardly calm when angered, because of an adaptation. In this case, these individuals often use self control to plot a truly devastating revenge plan.
Aggression can be many forms, many choose to assume physical harm or throwing things. The tone and words said could also be aggression; but summed up, some use that “aggression” to manipulate control, right into what they want. Until reading this, I always thought I had an anger issue because no one listened/cared/understood when I put a logical idea on the table, or logical response and get backlash: I then begin to feel that offensive defense to make the LOGICAL decision. I agree some aggression exhibits signs of mental intelligence, though other aggression signs may be more concerning for safety to self and others, in some individuals (serial killers, rapists, etc). Would also like to add-
For those who are not self-conscious of their aggression being linked to intelligence, I’d stretch to say many behaviors are controlled through the psychodynamic perspective… while more self-conscious behaviors of aggression may be viewed through a cognitive perspective (more in-depth behavioral perspective). Lastly, no matter how aggression is being controlled, I believe it’s all points to intelligence, whether misused or used correctly.
“Aggression does not necessarily arise from poor self-control. Instead, it can be a calculated act of retribution, requiring self-discipline to carry out effectively.” The weasel words here show that self-control does not CAUSE aggression as the article’s title suggested. It merely allows aggressive tendencies to be expressed with more intent and planning. That is NOT the same thing. But the form of self-control that changes someone from violent to peaceful requires the person to change how they respond to stimulus, then the greater self-control allows them to make the change. Self-control just means the expression of one’s will over their choices. It does not automatically rid them of aggressive tendencies or bad decision-making. Undirected self-control is hardly self-control at all. Mobsters exercise self-control all day long, but it doesn’t make them peaceful. Why would researchers assume that it equates with peace to begin with?
An equally valid interpretation of the same data they put forward is that the increased activity is due to the brain struggling, immensely, to control the same impulses and failing. Works the same way as their proposition. So i don’t see any validity in their claim without further research to back it up. As it stands this could just be a reinforcement of the current understanding not in any way upending it.
Well you need new researchers to be honest, I use to have sever anger issues until fighting my father…emotions that are extreme like anger, depression, happiness, and jealousy are to strong for the brain to completely process what the intent and constitution of the act will entail.Thus only can we begin to understand the process in hind sight which is what researching emotions pretty much is, not understanding as it happens or why but configuring and reasonable inference after the fact. Without being in a human brain things like this will never truly be 100% understandable.
I think we are being lead down a false dichotomy here. Based on this aggression is independent of self control. Instead stemming from a lack of emotional intelligence and empathy.
Testosterone and cortisol both block oxytocin. Testosterone is prone to making us strive to equalize. To have justice. To feel good about harming those who have harmed us. Applied correctly this creates an organic justice system, creating the knowledge that behaviour has consequence. But these social economics don’t factor in here. We are only comparing if I punch you in the face now, or wait to jump you later as it relates to self control.
A bigger scope must be taken for any meaningful discussion on this topic.
I think someone who patiently waits to destroy another. Who plots and plans another’s downfall from a preconceived wrong is scary. There is no stopping them. They are only revealed after they have exacted there plan.
Does this justifies and exonerates Will Smith’s actions against Chris Rock? Then Chris should have retaliated then and there back then. What a show could that been 😠
The problem is that anger makes things worse. Plus it gets you in a knot so you’re just hurtingyourvself.
I can already see all the dumbass self proclaimed “alpha males” misusing and misunderstanding this study on social media.
If one perceives retributive value as individual transactions, then the higher control levels exhibited by empaths is being ignored. I wonder if an underlying research bias exists to justify sociopathic behaviours?
So I think there are two types of aggression, one that requires self-control and another that does not. Someone, who acts aggressively, at the heat of the moment in an emotional situation does NOT use adequate self-control while someone who plans vengeance, retribution or is in a war uses self-control. I also believe that the most common aggression is the one with lack of self-control.
I just need you guys to understand that this study is ultimately just more conformation to the fact that people are going to be who they are regardless. There is no amount of psychological intervention that can change who you are, it only sharpens the skills you are already using. You cannot force a person to adopt morals. The more that you keep removing God and thinking that you humans can “fix” everybody, the less morals people are going to naturally have.
To Wayne T. Moore
Did you read the comments dipshit? Just 4 above you is a woman talking about her anger and its effects. Oh, that’s right, men can’t read so they mouth off instead. Moron.
I would like to take the opportunity to discuss self-control and disciplined behavior in a more comprehensive and balanced manner. Self-control goes beyond physical limits, as it encompasses emotional regulation and conscious choices. Undisciplined rage can lead to impulsive and destructive actions, which can result in self harm and harm to others. While individuals who develop discipline in specific areas will naturally excel in delivering performances of aggressive behaviour due to becoming more skillful human beings… obviously, however! individuals who practice self discipline in their reactions to situations that cause them to want to be consciously aggressive in an unhealthy way, but condition themselves to react lovingly, will be far more “in control” than anyone who does not. By training ourselves repeatedly at reacting with loving responses, we can become competent individuals capable of assertiveness while prioritizing peaceful resolutions to every conflict in all areas of our lives. I firmly believe and am living proof that an embrace the to transformative power of self-discipline(consistent skill development), self-control and self-change will help a person be more in control of himself. Sincerely, John B
Holding in responses in situations that require a proper response until the “damn breaks” is temporary self control. When “the damn breaks” logical or functional responses are abandoned for feelings of revenge, or rage that become unhealthy or dangerous to others. Self control is more functional when you respond appropriately when situations occur that require attention and not ignoring them until it’s too late.
You appear to be “reading in” a perspective that doesn’t exist. Nether the article, or study, mentioned sex or gender. Let alone any differences between such groups. You may want to speak to a counselor. Such a combative view of the world can make relationships difficult.
Hi Wayne, I responded to this in my post. Apologies as don’t think it showed as a response. I do agree that there’s negative stereotyping of majority of men. And Women are always perceived as innocent victims. But the truth is often far more complicated. Stating that there’s no excuse for hitting a woman. But I also acknowledge the difficulty leaving toxic environments on both sides. But it’s better to leave, than wharp and twist into a person you never wish to be or loose your personhood.
Premeditated violence is carried out by men and women. If anything I’d say people that repress their frustrations at work are more likely to hurt someone psychologically or physically at home. So it’s best to release your frustrations healthily at work than let them build. There is also people that have had unhealthy environments that they’ve grown up in. Some choose to run from these environments, some can’t, some see the world as something they need to fight and survive, some check out (or clinical term dissasociate). Some use alcohol or drugs to self-medicate. I think men and women have shared capacity for evil. But the way that evil is manifested differs. As men are generally physically stronger they’re likely to be more violent to exhibit some power that they lack in other places, environments. As women are often more psychologically robust, think they often resort to manipulation / passive aggression. Best to be and seek strong women and men that can defend themselves from external attacks, so that there’s peace in the home.
I am not sure you understand the difference between retribution and revenge… they are different and I would like to know exactly which this study applies to.
Showing Aggression can harm one self for instance,how can it make one.feel after uncontrollable agression erupted the bodys biood pressue can go sky high the heart can be damaged and it can cause us to do some serious harm to the other person and then we have to face the consequences of our actions controlling aggression is conducive to making peace if it were possible for all to be able to be to controll our aggression we would not harm our self, or.others.and we would have more contempment and self control would go a long way to make peace and the world a better place to live .y
The way I’d think about it is there is a time and place for everything. And sometimes “aggression” or meeting force with force is appropriate and effective.
Has anyone considered..’How does autism and violence influence this neurological processing.?’ We have an autism adult who’s ‘limited’ concept of what’s ‘real'(it’s not,it’s purely in his head)drives excess anger and violence and verbal shouting. His sense of control seems
To change but as a lifelong observer,I know he knows differently but still is exhibiting threats of deadly daily violent expressions. Meds don’t eliminate the reoccurance. How do we get the thought processing to meet these more progressive concepts and regain a livable situation for him.? What chemistry,meds, could possibly link behavioral control and brain functioning to help stimulate less aggressive thought processes? If self control is violence chosen,what’s next?
Hmmmm, well, with all due respect… NO SHIT MORONS!
You mean to tell me, that..sometimes people “choose” to be agressive when they’re specifically fed up with annoying people and things, and then sometimes sporadic idiots just do so, naturally out of self-defense?!….
Interesting and all, but does the world truly need these studies, to learn that goats drink water when they are thirsty?!….😱🤦♂️ academia can offer some great insight and wisdom, but must we sift through so much trash to find a gem?….maybe the answer is “yes” but good lord, there’s sometimes a big lack of common sense and concise communication.
Wayne T Moore…..I saw nothing that referred to either gender. I am a woman who frequently gets very aggressive. When I was 13, I almost killed a guy. All I saw was red, literally red, and I took a knife to kill him. Luckily, someone grabbed my hand and arm and disarmed me. I think these researchers should ask aggressive and violent people how they feel. I don’t care what their brain examinations show, I am Totally out of control when I become aggressive and even more out of control when violent.
This is interesting and so good to hear from a qualified person coming to this conclusion. I’ve had a theory that I think fits into this partially. My theory also overlaps into aggression and/or defensive aggression, or lack of, in human nature/human instinct. Then, what would the long term reaction/affects be in individuals who are taught to oppress their human nature/instinctual reaction? This is mostly a reference to the recent phenomenon of mass shootings in schools, workplaces and other public settings. Mostly in the US. My theory is that during the 1990s-the present when someone was bullied in school, the workplace, or other public setting and they defended themselves using physical means, the bully would often be treated by those of authority, as the victim and the bullied would be punished. I thank God that I was born in the ’70s! The first and last time I was bullied in school, 3 kids were picking on me, then the leader tried to steal my bike and threatened to beat me up. He took 1 step closer and I punched him in the jaw, knocking him down! The other 2 didn’t come any closer. I dreaded going back to school the next day because I thought they would regroup and try to kill me. Nope. They saw me in the hallway and were congratulating me and telling me how awesome that punch was! We ended up being friends for years and they toned it down (the bullying of other kids.) I’ve heard many stories similar to this. Don’t misunderstand, I was a little skinny kid. Not a tough guy or anything. I was just reacting in defense. If I had run home without my bike, tail between my legs, if you will, I would have gotten so much grief from anyone who noticed I wasn’t riding my bike and the local bully was. I also would have dwelled on it and given myself so much grief. Many sleepless nights I’d imagine. That plus friends and neighbors reminding me of the day I didn’t stand up for myself, might be considered borderline torturous. We are after all animals on earth. Evolved, but descended from other animals who might act with more instinct. We’ve evolved to have more complex thoughts, learn more complex tasks and perhaps have more empathy. But we’re still pack animals and only more time and further evolution could possibly remove the instinct of how to establish pecking order in pack animal society. You can force someone to go against instinct about as successfully as you can force a junkie to successfully complete rehab and avoid using drugs for the rest of their lives. It won’t work. The individual has to make that decision to change on their own. So, my theory about why there are an unprecidented amount of mass shootings in the United States these days doesn’t have much to do with our second amendment or guns.I believe this is an important part of our constitution and it’s in the second position for good reason. However that’s a conversation for another time. The reason why generation wasn’t exposed to some important types of problem solving and disappointment that naturally occurs in adult life coupled with the possible mental torture of having to repress their defensive instinct that would have solved a problem. Also, I haven’t heard any good alternative solution for what the bullied should be doing for their part in ending bullying. You can only “walk away” from it so many times and not in every situation.
Every school shooting, workplace shooting, etc was planned ahead, (premeditated) and the aggressor was a victim of bullying in the past. Bullied by the school bully, a teacher or authority figure, a boss or coworker, or a similar situation. Every mass shooter sent in with a controlled plan, though some may have been nervous, it was very controlled aggression as a result of the mental torture of repressed instinct. There may me a couple of instances of illness, where the shooter actually didn’t have much, or any control. I only know if 1 instance of this. Charles Whitman. I wrote in his suicide note that he didn’t understand why he did the things he did, and asked authorities to examine his brain after his death. They did and found a tumor.
Thank you all for reading my “everybody wins generation theory”. I’m curious what Mr David Chester would add to or criticize about this theory?
Some people who are aggressive and violent are actually totally in control of themselves and are doing so in a calculated manner to inflict suffering on people they deemed to have wronged them. You don’t say… in other news the sky is still blue…
Ms. Jones, I mean to address the author in this reply. Many men and women have been trained in the military to act aggressively, but not all the time, and with tact and professionalism. They can and do kill, not without aggression, but certainly without being psychopaths. This study is on the right track but very narrow in its reach. Also consider athletes, fighters, people making love…
Virginia Commonwealth University is a a nursing school for anesthesiology. I’m interested to know why they would do a study on aggression.
That’s simply not true. People to go VCU for all kinds of nursing specialties. I know several. It is so incredibly rare to have a program for just one vocation.
I am curious what the amygdala was doing during the time in people who chose violence and if it hijacked the ability of the proper processing of the prefrontal cortex information or if the prefrontal cortex was firing due to fight or flight in or to make controlled decisions to fight most efficiently. It is fascinating.
What if the amygdala was sending signal to the prefrontal cortex about the emotional response to rage and the prefrontal cortex executes the act based on dopamine it can receive is worth it… ergo executes the action.
These findings are dependent on the subjects in his study. Was his study concentrated primarily on those who score higher in Psychopathy?
The article hinted that it was. If this is the case, the conclusions only restate what’s already known about the mind of those who score high in Psychopathy and that is not representative of the broader population.
What about child abusers? Their anger seems like an explosive rage in response to perceived offenses by the child. Or people who throw things in a rage, not at someone else, but in anger at themselves when they can’t do something, like make something work or fix something.
I think the focus here was in the subset of people who already exhibit maliciously violent behavior. Individuals who study martial arts aren’t all violent or psychopaths. Yes it’s true both sets of people would practice self control, but o ly one set (the psychpaths) would have the pre-disposition for misuse of their skills. I am not a practicing psychology, but since I am putting in my two cents here. I think that individuals who also exhibit misuse of their aggression have a variety of factors involved such as; unchecked trauma cues, chemical imbalances, and an internalised perceived lack of control over the situation. So if a trauma cue is hit, and this causes a feeling of lack of control, and if the chemistry is off in the brain/body HPA axis, there is a higher likelihood that the trauma cue would be perceived as more intense to the persona acting out, and voila, a violent outburst.
You raised a good point. Here’s the problem with this article.
The author found this:
“Aggression does not necessarily arise from poor self-control.”
How did she reach the conclusion, “Aggression is a result of self-control?” It is simply illogical. A is necessary for B, doesn’t mean A is sufficient for B.
Because many martial artists practice not having aggression to suppress. They learn to feel their aggressions decidedly and to deal with them.
Because martial arts teaches more than just self control related to the physical use of “violence”/self defense/combat/ art skills. Look at the movie Karate Kid as an example, the “bad guys” I think show the controlled aggression used maliciously vs Daniel and Mr. Miagi(?) teachings
There is some research suggesting that martial arts training can increase aggression in kids. Ultimately, it may be that the belief systems associated with martial arts are what decrease violence. If a person believes that it’s always wrong to use excessive force, they will be significantly less likely to do that. If they believe that aggression is a valid, justified and useful response, they’ll act in alignment with that belief.
Interesting study! It seems there is a spectrum of types of aggression. At one extreme is reactive aggression, associated with lower self control. The other extreme would include planned aggression, requiring considerably more self control. Then there is the whole array of styles of aggression that fall somewhere in between. I suspect aggression can also be described along other axes, such as violent at one extreme, and essentially harmless at the other.
It’s called “assertiveness”! Aggression arises when multiple attempts of assertiveness has been attempted and foiled by so called experts or authorities.
Right. The good doctor is getting paid for nothing. Should stop wasting time and lookvfor the cure to cancer.
Clearly true. Often men who are violent towards their partners are perfectly well behaved in the workplace. Frustrating events occur in the workplace as much as they do in the home, but their aggression can be controlled.
You got a point there. I think it works like you say and I also say that MOST aggression is from lack of self-control. Nevertheless, all the nuances you describe exist.
If what you say is true and one can refrain from having violent episodes at work but for some reason cannot refrain from violence at home…then one must consider that there has to be some extenuating circumstances at home that nullify the restraint observed in the work environment. Perhaps even that the allegations of violence are false accusations. The other possibility would be if a woman were the trigger of said violence. In which case the woman must be considered as a mitigating and compounding factor to the violent outcomes. Finally, you said men who are violent. What about women who are violent? The statistical data bares out that women are just as prone to violence as men. Even more so in the most recent reports. 53% of domestic violence disturbances are the result of lack of restraint by the female in the residence. I only know all of this because I’ve lived it. My wife is borderline personality. She has impulse control issues to say the least. Every phone call to the police from my home was always made by me. 4 calls in 17 years. The only person to ever be arrested and go to jail in those 4 instances…me. I did everything right. Per my wifes psychologist I called for crisis intervention each time. Each time officer’s showed up in force(6 or more) with itchy trigger fingers and a complete lack of patience, self control or critical thinking. They all just went with their guts. And in each instance their guts were wrong. They saw an attractive woman who was a hot mess and in distress. Even the female officers reacted to me aggressively after seeing my wife in distress. Which for her is just how she rolls with her borderline personality disorder. She had no qualms about me going to jail rather then herself. She also didn’t take into account what it was doing to me or her kids nor could she extrapolate potential negative outcomes as a result of her lack of accountability down the road. I told everyone that I didn’t harm my wife and was trying to protect my children from her violent outbursts. No one listened and no one cared. I haven’t had any contact with my 3 kids in 8 years as a result. She ruined them. This article isn’t interesting, it’s stupid. It shows that all the data collection is flawed and skewed with a bias towards men as being the aggressors. I disagree with that wholeheartedly. You should too given your own response was to name men as the more responsible party for violent outcomes. My wife is borderline personality disorder with narcissistic tendencies. She is also a kindergarten teacher and has been for 27 years. And I promise you that each time violence occured in my home it was the result of her aggressive behaviors and nothing else.
Was the study focussed on aggression or violence? I am a bit confused but the words have different meanings and seem to be used interchangeably in the article. Eg how about passive aggressive traits? It has traditionally been asoociated with high control. Whereas violence is more commonly considered impulsive.
People retain aggresion because they still think it is useful tool to get their way. To drop it they have to realise that it is dysfunctional and doesn’t work.
I think violence has been grossly oversimplified to the point of erroneously being considered impulsive across-the-board in pop psychology. I think an old Prussian general summed it up in the sense of warfare: war is politics by other means. That’s not an impulsive decision, whatever anyone thinks about guys like Hitler, or Putin. Violence, like politics, is usually about control, to achieve some goal. If we believe humans are evolved apes, we should realize as evolved as we are, we are still apes with strong latent violent tendencies, lacking proper discipline. Think rogue elephants.
That is a very good question. A lot of the studies that link video games to violence don’t link to violence at all, but rather to “aggression”. In the case of those studies, “aggression” is often defined as “making spicy chili”. No, I’m not kidding. I’m curious about whether researchers are examining what precedes this violence. I would wager there are a great many cases where this controlled aggression is someone who has reached their breaking point after a long time of being put upon, and finally decides to strike back.
Excellent point! Aggression is a very wide spectrum that can include behaviors not typically thought to be violence, like the neighbor who used to throw her cigarette bites in my yard. While definitely violating my property rights, she wasn’t physically assaulting me. She was trying to get a reaction out of me so as to justify further aggression on her part. Very self-controlled. Her business, by the way, was running a Domestic violence control group for SV offenders. She knew exaxtlybwhat she was doing and I always wondered if her training made her clients better or worse.
1982 I was in therapy for the first time. I remember it like yesterday…when I was explaining how “out of control” my father was when he was angry (which was regularly). She literally stopped me and said, “He was not out of control. He was very much in control. He used his anger to control you.”
It was made a huge impact on my entire life. Especially when I found myself getting angry with my young kids at a young age and “out of control” screaming at them. My therapist from 1982 was still practicing in 1996 when I was that young parent. I asked if I could come back into therapy to talk about what was happening… I said … I’m starting to control my kids with anger… We did two years of work on that. This is such important work. I’d love to know how you are moving forward on this.
Loosing control when trying to control a situation, for example with children, is not the same as controlling oneself, not being in control of a situation at the workplace, with adults.
Also, ones own children, perceived as an extention of oneself, of which we expect to be in our control, might trigger memories of painful and threathening situations from one s own childhood, and excessive responses, leading to a loss of control wile trying to control a situation.
If self-control is greater during episodes of aggression lack of inhibition definitely promotes it in those individuals who for example drink alcohol as a habit and have repressed anger. If an individual is peaceful drinking alcohol will make him laugh loud or be creative in what he says and how he express himself and believe people have a distorted perception of what surrounds him and become playful even if the scenario he s in will not require playfulness or be de-inhibited in his communication but if an individual is angry and normally represses his anger drinking alcohol will initially bring arrogance to the surface and gradually with more alcohol intake will start to express his anger and then eventually explode in aggressive behavior. It d be interesting to understand the link between self-control and inhibition at a deeper level. If self control is great in episodes of aggression then how come some people become more aggressive when they are de-inhibited and therefore freer in their communication? I saw a strong causality between alcohol-induced de-inhibition and repressed anger / long-standing frustration. Does higher self-control drive anger out of repression in presence of de-inhibiting factors such as alcohol? I happened to know a person in the past who the day after wouldn’t remember what she did while she was drunk and I understood this can be quite widespread. In what way would she have greater self-control if she expressed anger while drinking if she removed/forgot all about it?
What your friend experienced was called state-dependant memory. It’s really nifty stuff! It is mostly studies on alcoholics, but has recently expanded to other substances as well. I have studied it through the lens of Autism Spectrum Disorder and their learning behaviour.
Essentially if a person has a strong emotion, or a substance that alters emotions, the memories are linked to that specific emotional/chemical state. So retreival of the memory is more effective when experiencing the same chemical state. Calm remembers calm, scared remembers scared, and angry remember angry etc…it’s difficult for some people to remember thoughts and details of things from when they were in a different state. So cool!
Study is flawed because it omitted to acknowledge the fact that most psychopaths or violent people have a deformation in the prefrontal cortex so it makes sense why it will seem active during violent episodes. Just because it is active does not mean it is working like most (to exhibit self-control)
Actually you’re wrong. Psychopaths are a very small percentage of the population; the study didn’t examine the psychopathic brain and therefore wouldn’t obfuscate the results.