When an infant is born, whether it be a newborn human or a newborn animal, a mother will defend it against harm, but is this behavior naturally occurring? Firm believers of evolutionary psychology assert that, “evolution by natural selection, is at present, the only viable scientific explanation of the existence of complex biological and psychological mechanisms. ” (Ploeger et el 2008) These beliefs are highly debatable and only serve as a theory as to why violence occurs.
From, “Evolutionary Psychology,” many human behavior ecologists defend the theory of evolutionary psychology. However, this does not appeal to many psychologists in today’s day in age. (Downes 2014) So do all mothers, for example, become naturally aggressive in the defense of their infants because of evolution or is there another explanation? Are all humans predisposed to violent or aggressive behaviors? Psychologists are still trying to fully answer these questions. The Brain
The brain serves as the center of the entire nervous system and is the “processor” of all information whether it be something you see, feel, smell, or hear. The brain consists of what looks like thousands of wrinkles, is grayish in color, and is working constantly even as you sleep. Within the brain, there are millions of neurotransmitters. These are the “chemical messengers manufactured by the neurons or nerve cells within the brain and they are responsible for carrying the messages that tells your heart to pump, your eyes to blink, and your stomach to start digesting food. p. 48)
Neurotransmitters not only carry the messages that tell your organs to function but they also carry the messages that your brain creates in response to a situation, such as in a conflict. Therefore, neurotransmitters carry the messages that control behaviors such as aggression. Famous influential figure and founder of psychoanalysis Sigmund Freud believed that an individual’s behavior, personality, and how the individual reacts to a situation, was the result of the constant interplay among conflicting psychological forces. (p. 17)
Freud asserted that, “all unconscious thoughts and behaviors influence conscious thoughts and behaviors in individuals. ”(pg 415) For example, in Freud’s theory, if an individual has repressed unconscious aggressive thoughts stemming from childhood trauma, these thoughts could lead to aggressive behavior and even violence presented in future situations. So can the unconscious mind be to blame for causing behaviors such as violence or aggression? To answer this, the processes of learning and conditioning will be discussed. Learning and Conditioning
According to “Discovering Psychology,” learning is defined as, “the process that produces a relatively enduring change in behavior or knowledge as a result of past experience. ” (p. 182) For example, if you touch a hot stove and get burned, you might learn to become anxious and nervous each time you are around a stove in the future. Conditioning is, “the process of learning associations between environmental events and behavioral responses. ” (p. 182) For example, if you own a dog and it gets excited every time you shake a box of dog treats, the dog knows that a reward might be in store.
The dog has made an association between the sound of the box shaking and the reward. Even though some people believe that behaviors such as violence and aggression are biologically set in an organism. (Wood 2010) From an article by Sarah Duman and Gayla Margolin, there is proof that learning and conditioning can influence behaviors such as aggression and violence. (Duman & Margolin 2007) Imitation of a behavior will likely occur if the observed behavior is performed by someone who has control over your life, such as a parent.
From the famous Bobo Doll Experiment developed by psychologist Albert Bandura. (1965) The theory stated that “most human behavior is acquired through observational learning. ” Bandura (1965) showed children a video of adult figures acting aggressively and documented the children imitating that same behavior. This concluded that children who observe aggressive behaviors performed by authority figures, especially parents, will likely imitate that same aggressive behavior (p. 215) According to Assari et el (2016), parental expectations may, “reduce adolescents’ engagement in violent behaviors. (Assari et el 2016)
The answer as to how and why violent and aggressive behaviors occur is still being debated, but it is clear that these behaviors are present in humans of all ages. To explain why this is, some firm believers assert that in order to expand our understanding of major issues in psychology, such as violence and aggression, we must explore deeper into evolutionary psychology. (Ploeger et el 2008) Violence and Conditioning Humans are not naturally born predators, we do not have sharp teeth or claws made for killing; we do not have a keen sense of hearing or vision like an eagle or some other predatory bird.
Naturally, we are not made for violence such as killing. From the article, The Biological Effects of Childhood Trauma, “we learn violence and it is sometimes even conditioned at an early age in the stages of development. If children observe acts of violence and aggression, the child‘s psychosocial aspects will be affected in the future. ” (De Bellis 2014) Violent and aggressive behaviors are learned and therefore influence many aspects of the human life. However, violence and aggression does not have to be just a physical act, such as murder or assault.
These behaviors can be categorized with emotional and verbal abuse such as discrimination, prejudice, and segregation as well. Remember from earlier, neurotransmitters only carry the message from the brain throughout the entire body making the body respond. (Hockenbury 2016) In order for violence to appear, an individual must use the brain to consciously decide whether or not to physically, mentally, or emotionally respond in an aggressive matter towards a stimulus.
Imitation and conditioning can highly influence how an individual will react to a situation and unless you are a firm believer that a person is born violent, violence is usually conditioned to be acceptable at later stages of life. (De Bellis 2014) For example, with the recent political happenings, it seems that more and more people are learning that violence is acceptable. This is highly toxic for influential individuals such as children, who see things on TV and are highly susceptible to being influenced by such observed behaviors like violence and aggression.
However, violence and aggression doesn’t just pertain to physical abuse, but emotional and verbal as well and serves only as dysfunction towards the progress of the human race in my opinion. Humans are not naturally born predators and have no predisposed behavior of violence. Rather, violence is learned to be acceptable through conditioning and imitation of observable behaviors. The Debate Even though there is debate whether or not violence is naturally occurring , a conditioned response to an event, or even imitated from observable behaviors, the solution to end violence in the world has not yet been reached.
Historians believe that since Neanderthals first learned that a rock, bone, stick, etc. could be used as a weapon, it has been used against other Neanderthals in violent ways . (Brown 2014) Since the dawn of time violence has surrounded the human race, therefore it might be easy to believe that violence is just natural. However, if you look at all the evidence, how an individual organism reacts to a situation is based on both unconscious and conscious brain functions affected by conditioning and the imitation of certain behaviors.
In conclusion, although there have been numerous studies done on violence proving that it is not naturally occurring in human beings. The fact that learning, conditioning, and imitation of aggressive behaviors are the true cause for violent tendencies. Skeptics still believe there is a naturally predisposed violent behavior in both animals and human beings as well, but the evidence contradicting this broad statement outweighs the fact that it is true, that violence is a learned and conditioned behavior that can easily influence other individuals to imitate that violent behavior.