Tuesday, 8 May 2012

Instinct and Frustration-aggression Theories

Theories of Aggression

There are 3 main theories regarding aggression in sport these are Instinct Theory, Frustration-aggression Theory and Social Learning Theory (SLT).

Instinct Theory

This was the first theory for aggression in sport and was defined by Freud, and Lorenz (1966). This theory is based on a nature approach; it argues that aggressive behaviour is innate, genetically inherited and as a result inevitable. It suggests aggression is due to our evolutionary development, our life instinct and our death instinct. Aggression is a trait of our self destructive death instinct and this clashes with our life instincts until it is balanced. 

The theory suggests aggression is built up and needs to be released to maintain our well being. This aggression can be directed towards another person or displaced and it argues that sport allows this release through a Catharsis. Rather than releasing our aggression in an inappropriate place we may wait until a more appropriate time to release it, and we use displacement when we want to do something that we know is not acceptable, If your boss at work makes you angry you may want to hurt them but you resist so the sporting environment provides the perfect opportunity to release this aggression. We re-direct this emotional response from a dangerous target to a safe one (Woods, 2001).

However the theory has Criticisms:

  • Levels of aggression actually tend to increase in sport not decrease as Freud suggests (Berkowitz,1972).

  • No innate aggressive characteristics have ever actually been found and there has never been any support found for Catharsis.

  • Aggressive sports players often don’t show the same aggressive characteristics in society away from their sport.

  • Aggressive behaviour is often learnt and is linked to culture not just innate.

Frustration-Aggression Theory

Dollard et al (1939) suggested an interactionist approach toward aggression, they argued that aggression is partly due to innate characteristics as Freud (1950) suggests but it is also partly learnt from others. A performer becomes aggressive when the goal is blocked and this leads to frustration in the performer and eventually aggression. They state that frustration will always lead to aggression and aggression is always caused by frustration.

An example could be a performer’s aggression drive increases due the opponent playing well. As a result frustration in the performer increases so they commit an aggressive act e.g. a personal foul in basketball, the player is then satisfied as there has been a cathartic release, however if the performer is punished for the act then further aggressive acts may follow.

The Frustration-aggression Theory

The main criticisms of the theory include:

  • Not all frustration leads to aggression.

  • Not all aggressive behaviour is caused by frustration some behaviours are learnt.

  • It doesn’t account for situational factors or individual differences.

Miller (1941) also argued factors such as fear of retaliation, respect for another person or fear of penalties for aggression might stop someone who was frustrated from becoming aggressive.

This link demonstrates the Frustration-aggression Theory, the player is frustrated a touchdown has been conceded, becomes angry and delivers a late hit which sparks a mass fight


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