Outline and evaluate the ethological explanation of aggression (16 marks)
In his book, On Aggression, Lorenz (1966) stressed that as humans are animals and therefore show similar behaviour to other animals, his ethological research could be generalised onto humans as part of the evolutionary approach to explaining human aggression. Lorenz proposed four main driving forces behind the behaviour of any animal: fear, hunger, reproduction and aggression. He said that aggression could only occur within a species, and not between separate species and that the functions of aggression to ensure sexual selection of the fittest and strongest, to ensure survival of the young, and to distribute species evenly into territories.
Most notably, Lorenz formulated the idea of ritualised aggression – the showing of aggression as assertion of power and maintenance of status. He agreed with the earlier work of Craig (1921), who said that ritualised aggression usually meant the display of aggression but not actual violence. Here, however, Lorenz’s work meets criticism. If animal behaviour can be applied to humans, then ritualised aggression should be too. But, as news stories and history will tell us, human aggression is often not at all ritualised and violent acts are committed for no good reason at all. It appears that here is a major behavioural difference between humans and the rest of the animal kingdom and Lorenz’s ethological cannot hope to give us a full picture of why this is.
Morris (1990) declared that there is a high level of restraint in animals and Gross (1988) proposed “appeasement tactic” from his research on the behaviour of jackdaws. It has been argued that as we have evolved and our technology and weaponry likewise, we have become insensitive to the appeasement tactic. Weaponry these days means that attackers are often not close to their attacks, so appeasement tactics or distress signals are not registered and it is easier to distance oneself from the aggressive acts being carried out. This has been applied to modern day terrorism by Tinbergen, who said that a terrorist that might be...