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Lissauer H 1890 Ein Fall von Seelenblindheit nebst einem research will be reviewed briefly in cases where the
Beitrage zur Theorie derselben. Archi fuW r Psychiatrie und results add to the understanding of human aggression.
Nerenkrankherten 21: 222–70 (The term ‘agonistic’ has been used more frequently in
Pulvermuller F 1999 Words in the brain’s language. Behaioral research with lower animals than in human research.)
and Brain Sciences 22: 253–336
Tranel D, Damasio A R 1985 Knowledge without awareness:
An autonomic index of facial recognition by prosopagnosics.
Science 228: 1453–4
Tranel D, Damasio A R 1996 The agnosias and apraxias. In: 1.1 Definitions and Measurements
Bradley W G, Daroff R B, Fenichel G M, Marsden C D (eds.)
Neurology in Clinical Practice, 2nd edn. Butterworth, Stone- Although there are no universally accepted definitions
ham, MA, pp. 119–29 of human aggression, it has generally been defined as
Tranel D, Damasio A R, Damasio H 1988 Intact recognition of behavior which results in physical or psychological
facial expression, gender, and age in patients with impaired harm to another person and\or in the destruction of
recognition of face identity. Neurology 38: 690–6 property. It usually includes overt physical acts (e.g.,
Tranel D, Damasio H, Damasio A R 1997 A neural basis for the
retrieval of conceptual knowledge. Neuropsychologia 35:
fighting or breaking objects) or verbal abuse. Lower
1319–27 animals also engage in overt physical fighting. The
Ungerleider L G, Mishkin M 1982 Two cortical visual systems. counterpart of verbal abuse among lower animals is
In: Ingle D J, Goodale M A, Mansfield R J W (eds.) Analysis ‘aggressive displays’ in which animals vocalize and\or
of Visual Behaior. MIT Press, Cambridge, MA, pp. 549–86 assume threatening postures (Kalin 1999). There are
Young A W, Bruce V 1991 Perceptual categories and the data suggesting that among lower animals size is often
computation of ‘grandmother.’ European Journal of Cognitie related to achieving dominance, and lower animals
Psychology 3: 5–49 will often make themselves look larger when thre-
Warrington E K, McCarthy R A 1994 Multiple meaning systems atened; for example, fish will make themselves appear
in the brain: A case for visual semantics. Neuropsychologia 32: larger by extending their fins (Clemente and Lindsley
Warrington E K, Shallice T 1984 Category specific semantic
impairments. Brain 107: 829–53 Agonistic behavior was defined as adaptive acts
which arise out of conflicts between two members of
D. Tranel and A. R. Damasio the same species (Scott 1966, 1973). As noted, agonistic
behaviors were more inclusive and provided a broader
context within which to classify the more traditional
concepts of aggression. In addition to overt aggressive
acts or threats, agonistic behaviors included passive
acts of submission, flight, and playful behaviors which
involve physical contact. For example, human part-
Agonistic Behavior icipation in sports or playful jostling would not
generally be included as a form of aggression but
1. Oeriew would be included under the agonistic umbrella.
Since the introduction of the term ‘agonistic,’ the
Aggression and violence are serious social problems, differences between agonistic and aggressive behaviors
as illustrated by acts ranging from school violence to have blurred and the two labels are often used
wars. From an evolutionary viewpoint, on the other interchangeably in the literature. Its introduction did
hand, aggression is often described as adaptive. From not result in more productive leads for understanding
a humanitarian point of view it is difficult to imagine or preventing human aggression. Among humans it
war among humans as being adaptive. The challenge appears that developing techniques for killing have
to science is to resolve these contrasting views of outstripped our knowledge of how to prevent killing.
aggression. Although research on aggression has been The substitution of a new term for aggression has not
extensive, it has not led to significant progress in changed this trend. The major challenge in aggression
understanding and preventing aggressive acts. It was research is to develop a model which can serve to
this lack of progress which led to the introduction of synthesize data across a wide range of scientific
the concept of agonistic behavior in the mid-twentieth disciplines (Barratt et al. 1997).
century. The definition of agonistic behavior was more Techniques range from qualitative observations of
inclusive of behaviors often not included under the behavior in naturalistic settings to more quantitative
umbrella of aggression. This provided a broader measures of aggressive behaviors in laboratory sett-
context for understanding aggression in relation to ings. Discipline-specific language has often produced
other behaviors. confusion when comparing the results from cross-
The purpose of this article is to review the current disciplinary research. Thus, as noted the major chal-
status of aggression research as it relates to agonistic lenge to science is to view aggression from a more
behaviors. The focus will be primarily on classifying neutral context: a discipline-neutral model.
and predicting human aggression. Lower animal The focus here will be on classifying and measuring

Agonistic Behaior

both aggression and risk factors for aggression under to protecting a territory for either food or reproductive
four headings: (a) behavior, (b) biology, (c) cognitive purposes. These behaviors have in part a genetic basis
or mental processes, and (d) environment or the setting which generally is learned in a social context.
in which psychosocial development takes place and
aggression is expressed. No attempt will be made here
to organize these four classes of descriptors and 2.1 Human Agonistic Behaiors
measurements into a model, but it should be noted
that attempts to do so have been documented in the Not all agonistic behaviors among humans relate to
literature. social or clinical problems. For example, human sports
activities are competitive and often result in physical
harm to participants. Yet these events are condoned
2. Classifying and Measuring Human Aggression by society. The social value of these events is often
Aggression is behavior. Therefore, what is to be explained in terms of the evolution of agonistic
predicted in human aggression research are aggressive behaviors among lower animals that have become part
acts. These acts become the criterion measures for of human biological drives. It is generally agreed that
which risk factors or predictor measures are sought. most common agonistic behaviors among lower ani-
One of the more difficult tasks in aggression research is mals relate to achieving dominance, which in turn is
defining these acts so they can be measured and related related to protecting a territory for purposes of food or
quantitatively to potential predictors. Unless the acts reproduction as described above. Lower animals also
are quantitatively measured, the efficacy of various engage in ‘play-like’ behaviors to learn to express and
interventions for controlling aggressive acts cannot be experience dominance in a tolerant environment.
reliably determined. These behaviors are apparently not intended to do
The properties of human aggressive acts which can harm. If one observes a litter of pups as they mature,
be quantified are: (a) frequency with which the acts this type of ‘play’ behavior is obvious. At the human
occur; (b) intensity of the act or degree of physical or level, play and sports provide not only adaptive and
psychological harm inflicted; (c) the target of the act; socially acceptable outlets for aggressive impulses, but
(d) the stimuli within the environmental setting which also an opportunity for non-participants to identify
trigger the act; (e) the expressive form of the act (e.g., with a ‘group,’ hopefully as a ‘winner.’ This provides a
overt physical acts vs. verbal assaults); (f ) the type of sense of belonging.
act in terms of intent. These properties of aggressive
acts are often used singly or in combination as
outcome or criterion measures of aggression. 2.2 Techniques for Measuring Human Aggression
There are three types of aggressive acts related to As noted, one of the more difficult tasks in aggression
intent: (a) impulsive or reactive aggression or acting research is quantifying the aggressive acts, especially
without thinking; (b) premeditated, planned or pro- at the human level. Opportunities to observe human
active aggression; (c) medically related aggression or aggression directly in natural settings are not common
aggressive acts which are committed secondary to a and are restricted primarily to institutions such as
medical disorder, such as a closed head injury or prisons or schools. The most common ways of
psychiatric disorder. Classifying aggressive acts based measuring human aggressive acts are by structured
on intent or effect is important because different interviews or self-report measures of aggressive acts.
interventions are effective with each type. If aggressive As emphasized earlier, aggression is behavior and
acts are a sign or symptom of a medical disorder, should not be confused with anger or hostility, which
controlling the disorder should result in control of the are often precursors of aggressive acts. Self-report
aggression. measures of aggression can be reliable in some
Impulsive aggression has been shown to be related instances but subjects may confuse their feelings of
in part to low levels of a neurotransmitter, serotonin, anger and hostility with aggression. Thus, in human-
which helps selected neurons in the brain communicate level research, reporters (e.g., spouse) who can observe
with one another. Giving a medication which increases an individual’s behavior are also often used to docu-
levels of serotonin has been shown to control impulsive ment the aggressive acts of subjects. In hospital
aggression. Selected medications used to control settings where aggressive patients are housed, rating
seizures (anticonvulsants) have also been shown to scales of aggressive acts have been developed for use in
control impulsive aggression. quantifying patients’ aggressive acts on the wards.
In contrast, premeditated aggression cannot be
controlled by medication but instead responds to
cognitive\behavioral therapy which is based on social 3. Risk Factors for Human Aggression
learning theory. This makes sense because pre-
meditated or proactive aggression is learned in social Risk factors or predictor measures of human ag-
situations. Premeditated human aggression is often gression will be discussed briefly under the four
compared with subhuman aggression which is related headings listed in Sect. 1.1 above. Examples will be

Agonistic Behaior

presented in each category since lack of space pre- tomical explanations of human aggression are limited
cludes an indepth discussion. but imaging techniques (e.g., PET scans) offer prom-
ise for the future.

3.1 Biological Predictors of Aggression

3.2 Cognitie Precursors of Aggression
3.1.1 Neurotransmitters and hormones. The bio-
Research has shown that verbal skills including read-
logical processes of the brain are controlled and
ing are related to impulsive aggression. It has been
maintained in large part by biochemicals called neuro-
proposed that the reason for this relationship is that
transmitters and\or hormones. One of the most com-
humans often covertly verbalize control of their
monly quoted findings in psychopharmacology is
behaviors. Among persons with verbal skill deficits
that the serotonergic system of the brain is related to
this control would be diminished, hence they would
impulsive aggression, as noted above. Low levels of
more likely be aggressive if an impulse to aggress was
the neurotransmitter serotonin have been shown to
be related in both lower animal and human studies
Another important cognitive process relates to
to impulsive aggression, but not to other forms of
conscious feelings of anger and hostility which are
aggression. Serotonin is involved primarily with
precursors of aggression. Measures of these two traits
brain systems which regulate behavioral inhibition
are often mistakenly used as measures of aggression.
(Ferris and Devil 1994). Other neurotransmitters (e.g.,
These traits are best classified as biological states
norepinephrine) have been shown to relate to creat-
which can be verbalized and cognitively experienced.
ing the drive or impulse to be aggressive. As with
One ‘feels angry’ but one acts aggressively.
most scientific findings, the results often become less
clear as research progresses and it has been suggested
that serotonin is not an exclusive or possibly even the
best neurochemical marker for impulsive aggression. 3.3 Enironmental Precursors of Aggression
It is probable that in the long run a profile of neuro- It has been demonstrated among lower animals that
chemical markers will be related to impulsive aggres- different rearing environments can lead to changes in
sion rather than one or two neurotransmitters. biological functions which are purportedly related to
Hormones have also been related to aggression. For aggression (Kramer and Clarke 1996). For example,
example, testosterone levels among males have been not having a mother in a rearing environment at
shown to be related to aggressive behaviors (Archer critical developmental periods can lead to decreased
1991). levels of serotonin, which as noted above has been
suggested as a major biological precursor of impulsive
aggression. Among humans aggression is often related
3.1.2 Genetics. Although there is evidence of heri- to living conditions (Wilson 1975). For example,
table aggressive behaviors in lower animals, especial- persons in lower socioeconomic neighborhoods are
ly mice and rats, there is no creditable evidence at more likely to be involved in fights than persons in
this time for a genetic predisposition for aggression higher socioeconomic neighborhoods. Again, these
among humans. This is especially true for molecular are complex interactions and caution is warranted in
genetic markers. There has been suggestive evidence generalizing the results as ‘causes’ of aggression.
in behavioral genetic studies for the inheritance of
aggression, but these findings have been difficult to
replicate. 3.4 Behaioral Precursors and Laboratory Models
of Aggression
3.1.3 Neuroanatomy. A number of brain areas have As is generally true for most behaviors, one of the best
been related to aggression in lower animals but the predictors of aggression is a past history of aggressive
relevance of these findings for understanding human acts. This is true for both impulsive and premeditated
aggression is limited because of differences in brain aggression.
function and structure. One of the main problems in Another way of studying human aggressive behav-
relating brain structures to aggression among hu- ior is to generate it in laboratory situations. An
mans is the hierarchical nature of the brain’s struc- example is a computer-simulated betting procedure.
ture, involving neurons which carry information Individuals sit in front of a TV screen and attempt to
across different parts of the brain. Implying that one accumulate money by pressing a button under dif-
area of the brain is responsible for aggressive acts ferent conditions. They think that they are competing
ignores the interdependence of brain structures. Even with someone in another room for the money but they
parts of the same brain nucleus (e.g., the amygdala) are not. Persons with tendencies toward impulsive
can affect aggression differently because of their re- aggression will display aggression in this well-con-
lationship with different brain systems. Neuroana- trolled laboratory setting. This procedure can be used

Agricultural Change Theory

to test the efficacy of ‘anti-aggression’ medications or gineered production systems; agricultural change
for studying the effects of alcohol and other drugs on occurs on a daily basis, as farmers in every country of
aggressive behavior. the world make decisions about what, where, and how
to cultivate. The importance of the topic goes well
beyond how much food is produced, how much money
4. Postscript is made, and how the environment is affected: agri-
culture is intimately linked to many institutions in
This article has focused primarily on one example of
every society, and to population. This article examines
agonistic behaviors, namely aggression. The need for
the most influential theories of agricultural change in
quantitative measures to study aggression was empha-
general, with particular emphasis on the role of
sized, as well as the problems related to predicting
population growth.
aggressive behaviors. It is important to realize that
there are different types of aggression with different
sets of precursors or risk factors for each. The greatest
hindrance to advancing aggression research at this 1. Oeriew
time is the lack of a discipline-neutral model which can
be used to synthesize discipline-specific data in the Scholarship on agricultural change has been anchored
search for precursors of aggression. by two small books with enormous impacts, both
focused on the relationship between farming and
See also: Aggression in Adulthood, Psychology of; population. In 1798, British clergyman Thomas
Behavior Therapy: Psychiatric Aspects; Hypothal- Malthus argued for an intrinsic imbalance between
amic–Pituitary–Adrenal Axis, Psychobiology of; rates of population increase and food production,
Neurotransmitters; Sex Hormones and their Brain concluding that it was the fate of human numbers to
Receptors be checked by ‘misery and vice’—generally in the form
of starvation and war. Although intended mainly as an
essay on poverty, population, and Enlightenment
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Archer J 1991 The influence of testosterone on human ag- (Malthus 1798) infused popular and scientific thought
gression. British Journal of Psychology 82: 1–28 with a particular model of agricultural change, in
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psychological and cognitive psychophysiological substrates of teristically operated at the highest level allowed by
impulsive aggression. Biological Psychiatry 41: 1045–61 available technology.
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Neural Mechanisms and Social Patterns. University of Cali- Boserup claimed to upend this model of agriculture by
fornia Press, Los Angeles arguing that, particularly in ‘primitive’ agricultural
Ferris C F, Devil Y 1994 Vasopressin and serotonin interactions
in the control of agonistic behavior. Psychoneuroendo-
systems, farmers tended to produce well below the
crinology 19: 593–601 maximum because this allowed greater efficiency
Kalin N H 1999 Primate models to understand human aggr- (output:input ratio). She maintained that production
ession. Journal of Clinical Psychiatry 60; suppl. 15: 29–32 was intensified and additional technology adopted
Kramer G W, Clarke A S 1996 Social attachment, brain mainly when forced by population.
function, and aggression. Annals of the New York Academy of Each model is quite simple—dangerously over-
Science 794: 121–35 simplified, many would now argue—but they provide
Scott J P 1966 Agonistic behavior of mice and rats: A review. invaluable starting points from which to address the
American Zoologist 6: 683–701 complexities of agricultural change.
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Harvard University Press, Cambridge, MA, Chap. 11, 2. Malthus
pp. 242–55
Malthus’s famous maxim from Population was that
E. S. Barratt ‘the power of population is indefinitely greater than
the power in the earth to produce subsistence for
Copyright # 2001 Elsevier Science Ltd. man … Population, when unchecked, increases in a
All rights reserved. geometrical ratio. Subsistence increases only in an
arithmetical ratio.’ Subsequent empirical research has
Agricultural Change Theory made this position appear dubious. He used sketchy
accounts of population booms in New World colonies
Agricultural change refers not just to the difference to show that unchecked populations double every 25
between the first plantings 10,000 years ago and years, but such growth rates have been shown to be
today’s computerized, industrialized, genetically en- highly exceptional. His view of agricultural production


International Encyclopedia of the Social & Behavioral Sciences ISBN: 0-08-043076-7