Aggression and Its Representation in Psychological Literature


Recently the attention to the problem of human aggression in the scientific community has increased. Humanity has shown interest in the phenomenon of aggression since ancient times, and in modern times it is the subject of the most active psychological research (Salimi et al., 2019). In this regard, this work is aimed at analyzing the sociopsychological aspect of the problem of human aggression. The objectives of the study include the definition of the concept of aggression, and its representation in the psychological literature. Next, the goal is to study the types of aggression, as well as to consider various psychological approaches that explain aggressive behavior. In addition, the paper is aimed at studying the motivation and determinants of aggressive behavior.


The problem of aggression in modern society is becoming increasingly relevant in connection with everyday life, which manifests itself in various spheres of life. One of the most common types of deviant behavior is aggressive behavior, which often takes a hostile form: fights or insults. For some people, participating in fights is an established line of behavior. The situation is aggravated by the instability of society, interpersonal and intergroup conflicts.

The age of aggressive actions decreases; there are more and more cases of aggressive behavior among female representatives (Hellinger & Carr, 2021). Compared with the past, the number of extremely serious crimes has increased, everyday consciousness records an increase in conflicts and facts of aggressive behavior of people (Salimi et al., 2019). The number of suicides which is considered to be one of the forms of aggression – self-aggression or self-harm – has also risen (Williams, 2021). Aggressive behavior reflects one of the most acute psychological problems of society.

Brief Introduction of The Topic Area

The chosen topic area within social psychology is aggression as a sociopsychological phenomenon. The beginning of the study of the psychological mechanisms of aggressive behavior was laid by Z. Freud, who identified two basic instincts: Eros – a creative principle in man, which manifests itself in sexual attraction, and Thanatos – the death instinct (Vliert & Lange, 2019). These instincts are eternal, unchangeable, and innate; for this reason, aggressive behavior is an inherent property of human nature. It is a reaction to the blocking or destruction of libido impulses.

Definitions For Key Concepts

The interpretation of the concept of aggression by different authors has a number of differences, at the same time, they are united by the idea of harming another subject. This definition emphasizes that aggression is a model of behavior, not an emotion or motive (Vliert & Lange, 2019). Aggressiveness is a relatively stable personality trait expressed in readiness for aggression, as well as in the tendency to perceive and interpret the behavior of another as hostile. From the point of view of modern sociology, aggression is interpreted as the behavior of an individual, which is aimed at causing both moral and physical damage (up to complete destruction) to another individual (Krahé, 2020).

From the point of view of psychology, aggression is a deliberate destructive behavior of a person, bringing psychological discomfort or physical damage to people around them (Vliert & Lange, 2019). When analyzing the causes of the phenomenon of aggression, it is necessary to distinguish between the concepts of “aggressiveness” and “aggression” (Hellinger & Carr, 2021). The difference between the concepts is that aggressiveness is a character trait, and aggression is a human condition.

Main Social Psychological Theories and Research

The most outstanding sociopsychological works in the field of aggression are related to its classification: the identification of various types and types. S. Feshbach noted a number of important differences, distinguishing expressive, hostile and instrumental aggression from each other (Wright et al., 2021). Feshbach defines the purpose of the first one as harming another, while the second one is aimed at achieving a neutral goal (Wright et al., 2021).

In this case, aggression is only used as a means (for example, in the case of blackmail, or shooting at a hostage-taker). However, the Feshbach classification also has some drawbacks: the author does not indicate the factors on which the strength of aggressive habits may depend (Wright et al., 2021). He only casually mentions that frustration increases the likelihood of aggressive behavior. Feshbach denies the existence of a link between punishment and aggressive behavior (Wright et al., 2021). His work does not claim that aggressiveness is regulated by such factors as culture and customs, or upbringing (if aggression in the past of a person was punished or not rewarded).

The theory of frustration-aggression, which was proposed by D. Dollar and co-authors, states that the experience of frustration increases the likelihood of aggressive behavior. Aggression is defined by them as an act, the purpose of which is harm to a person or object (Breuer & Elson, 2017). Frustration refers to a condition that occurs when purposeful reactions experience interference. It occurs when a person is prevented from achieving a long-awaited goal or getting satisfaction. That is, frustration itself does not automatically lead to aggressive behavior. For example, a person may perceive the delivered block as unintentional or justified. In this case, aggressive behavior will not manifest itself. It is more likely that frustration will lead to aggressive behavior if a person is prevented from achieving the goal in an illegal or unexpected way.

This theory requires some amendments, which were first introduced into it by N. Miller, who argued that frustration generates different patterns of behavior, including aggressive. He noted that frustration is not always expressed in aggressive behavior, but it stimulates readiness for it (Breuer & Elson, 2017). He also supplemented the frustration-aggression theory, mentioning that even when ready, aggressive behavior does not manifest itself without certain messages. The limitations of the Dollar’s theory were that it did not take into account environmental stimuli associated with current or previous factors that provoke anger (Breuer & Elson, 2017). In accordance with this, frustration or other aggressive stimuli (pain, heat, hunger, etc.) provoke aggressive behavior through the formation of negative affect.

Real World Everyday Examples

Instrumental aggression consists in performing intentional actions in order to achieve various goals. For example, it may be a reward, profit, or some advantages for the aggressor (power, money, control and dominance, pleasure through sex or alcohol). The considered example refers to self-serving aggression; there is also selfless instrumental aggression, which becomes a tool in order to get the desired result, and does not require either provocation or anger. For example, a doctor who performs an operation on a patient in order to save their life causes them very definite physical pain and mental suffering, but at the same time saves their life.

Hostile (destructive) aggression happens when the desire for violence is traced in the actions, and the purpose is to harm another person (Hellinger & Carr, 2021). For example, it can manifest itself in the form of specific hostility, such as harassment and intrusive courtship. Most crimes against the life, honor, dignity, rights and property of other people can be attributed to this category of aggression.

Aggression always has causes and the soil that promotes aggressive reactions, or, in other words, the factors of its occurrence, which also partially determine its features and character. Examples of situational factors, which include external influences, can be temperature and climatic effects: a person is too hot or too cold (Krahé, 2020). Frustration can also be caused, for example, by unpleasant and painful sensations associated with noise, pungent odors, crowding, or violation of personal boundaries. Also, the causes of frustration may be the effects of alcoholic beverages or drugs, and excitement in the absence of emotional discharge.

Potential Future Research

Among the directions of further psychological research, it should be noted the need to develop and improve psychodiagnostic methods. They will allow for an accurate and differentiated assessment of aggressiveness and hostility, as well as effective methods of psychotherapy. The study of psychological, physiological, biochemical, hereditary, situational and other mechanisms of anger, hostility, violence and aggression will open up a wide range of possibilities for scientists. First of all, it is a space for interdisciplinary research aimed at the prevention of criminal and deviant behavior and the treatment of serious somatic and mental diseases, the symptoms of which may be aggression.

Insufficient attention to anger issues is due to the fact that it is an emotion focused on overcoming. Most often, it is experienced when faced with obstacles that prevent the implementation of activities feasible for a person. Anger and rage (seen as an extreme manifestation of anger) can translate into purposeful actions. Therefore, the attention of sociologists is shifted to behavioral manifestations, and the perspective of emotion has not been sufficiently studied at the moment.


In the context of the Covid-19 pandemic, it is reasonable to conduct potential research in the field of aggression in order to identify and investigate new triggers that provoke aggressive behavior. Thus, studies are possible on the relationship between the increasing manifestations of violence, aggression among people and economic instability and social tension in the country. The prerequisites for aggression should be sought not only in the social environment but also in the family, in the methods of education. Therefore, further research can be carried out regarding the features of the likelihood of aggression in poor, problematic families. The problem of discrimination is also acute, so it is worth studying how the feeling of infringement, deprivation, undeserved resentment, a feeling of envy, anger pushes for the implementation of acts of violence.

In modern conditions of a sharp change in international relations, the outbreak of local wars and the intensification of terrorism, the study of the phenomenon of human aggression is of particular relevance. Questions about the nature and causes of its existence, about stimulating social factors and the possibilities of its inhibition attract the attention of specialists from different fields of knowledge. The study of the features of aggressive behavior is relevant due to the large number of factors that can cause frustration. At the moment, resorting to antisocial behavior, unfortunately, is one of the possible ways to get rid of the state of frustration and tension.


Breuer, J., & Elson, M. (2017). Frustration-aggression theory. In P. Sturmey (Ed.), The Wiley Handbook of Violence and Aggression (pp. 1-12). Chichester: Wiley Blackwell.

Hellinger, M., & Carr, E. M. (2021). Self psychology and aggression: Reflections on aversive experience, culture, and building developmental capabilities. A Topical Journal for Mental Health Professionals, 41(3), 199-212.

Krahé, B. (2020). The social psychology of aggression. Oxford, UK: Routledge.

Salimi, N., Karimi-Shahanjarini, A., Rezapur-Shahkolai, F., Hamzeh, B., Roshanaei, G., & Babamiri, M. (2019). Aggression and its predictors among elementary students. Journal of Injury and Violence Research, 11(2), 159-170.

Vliert, E.V., & Lange, P. V. (2019). Latitudinal psychology: An ecological perspective on creativity, aggression, happiness, and beyond. Perspectives on Psychological Science, 14(5), 601-613.

Williams,M. T. (2021). Microaggressions are a form of aggression. Behavior Therapy, 52(3), 709-719.

Wright, P. J., Paul, B., & Herbenick, D. (2021). Preliminary insights from a U.S. probability sample on adolescents’ pornography exposure, media psychology, and sexual aggression. Journal of Health Communication, 26(1), 39-46.

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PsychologyWriting. "Aggression and Its Representation in Psychological Literature." October 15, 2022.