Biological Explanations For Aggression

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A range of biological explanations for human aggression exists in psychology. One of these is the link between genetic factors and aggression. This explanation claims that aggressive behaviour is caused by the genetics passed down to a person and that certain genes predispose a person to be aggressive. This view has support from Sandberg (1961) who identified the XYY karyotype. This is an abnormality in the set of chromosomes found in men- instead of the normal 46 chromosomes men with the XYY gene will have 47. Court-Brown (1965-67) analysed a sample of 314 hospital patients and found that those with the XYY gene were more aggressive than those without it. Furthermore animal studies have supported a genetic basis for aggression (Nelson 2006). However it is difficult to generalise the results of these animal studies to humans as there are significant differences in aggression behaviours between humans and animals. While animals may simply act upon aggressive impulses, humans have linguistic abilities to be able to communicate with an aggressor more effectively, reasoning skills which allow us to determine whether an aggressive act is the best option, as well as empathy to understand how our actions could affect others. Therefore we have the ability to not act aggressively even if we are predisposed to it. This highlights another key issue: free will. This theory is very deterministic, predicting that if a person possesses a particular gene then they will be an aggressive person. However this does not take into account free will: we can choose whether or not to carry out an action. Additionally Theilgaard (1984) found that genetics are far more complex and other factors have to be taken into account. Theilgaard examined prisoners with the XYY gene and compared their traits to those with XY gene. Using projective tests, it was found that some XYY prisoners did give
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