Think of occasions on which you have behaved aggressively. Many of them probably involved frustrating situations. Dollars, Doob, Miller, Mowrer, and Sears (1939) argued in their frustration-aggression hypothesis that there are close links between frustration and aggression. They assumed that frustration always causes aggression, and that aggression is always caused by frustration. However, there are many occasion on which it is dangerous or ill-advised to behave aggressively towards the source of frustration (e. g., if he/she is your boss). According, Dollard et al. assumed that aggression is sometimes displaced from the source of the frustration on to someone else. For example, if some powerful person has frustrated you, you may behave aggressively towards your pet dog or cat.
Miller, Sears, Mower, Doob, and Dollard (1941) soon realized that the original frustration-aggression hypothesis was over-simplified. Accordingly, they changed the hypothesis to assert that aggression is the dominant response to frustration, but the precise behavior produced is influenced by other factors in the situation.
Doob and Sears (1939) asked participants to imagine how they would feel in each of 16 frustrating situations. In one situation, the participants imagined they were waiting for a bus, but the bus driver went by without stopping. Most of the participants reported that they would feel angry in each of the frustrating situations. However, note that anger does not necessarily produce aggressive behavior.
Pastore (1952) distinguished between justified and unjustified frustration. According to him, it is mainly unjustified frustration that produces anger and aggression. Doob and Sears (1939) obtained strong support for the frustration-aggression hypothesis because the situations they used involved unjustified frustration. Pastore produced different versions of the situation used by Doob and Sears using justified frustration. For example, the situation with the non-stopping bus was re-written to indicate that the bus was out of service. As predicted, justified frustration led to much lower of anger than did unjustified frustration.
There is more recent evidence supporting the frustration aggression hypothesis. Catalano, Novaco, and McConnell (1997) carried out a study in San Francisco in which they looked at the relationship between job losses and violence. They found that small increases in job losses (a cause of frustration) was associated with an increase in violence (aggression).
The assumption that individuals will often displace their aggression to someone other than the person responsible for their negative internal state of frustration has been tested many times. Marcus-Newhall, Pedersen, Carlson, and Miller (2000) carried out a meta-analysis of 82 studies on displaced aggression, and conducted that the evidence generally provided strong support for the existence of displaced aggression.
Source: “Frustration-aggression hypothesis,” from Psychology: An International Perspective, by Michael W. Eysenck
Photo courtesy of Alex Bellink
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