The problem, in short, is that many aggression researchers
are afraid of the term and of the concepts that it represents.
In particular, students of human aggression are afraid of
some of the implications of the view that human aggression
is essentially similar to aggression in other mammals. Among
these implications is that some instances of aggression, and
the situations and stimuli that elicit them, are embedded
in normal circumstances of life for people as well as for
most nonhuman mammals. In this sense, some aggressive behaviors
may be legitimate and normal. Another such implication is
that instances of or tendencies toward aggression may be evolutionarily
adaptive for the individual. If this is true, then these individuals,
aggressive under particular circumstances, may leave more
descendants, and these descendants would be expected to express,
to varying degrees, that tendency. From the perspective of
animal research, these implications seem to be undeniable,
although the various mechanisms involved are in need of a
great deal more analysis, as is the equally undeniable relationship
of aggression to experience and to the interaction of experience
with a host of genetic, gender, hormonal, and neurological
factors. But, although some aggressive tendencies, in some
situations, may be normal and adaptive, an emphasis on different
types of aggression and on their relationship to specific
eliciting circumstances makes the point that violent acts
not in agreement with these guidelines may be neither normal
nor adaptive. Clearly maladaptive aggressive behaviors, such
as those of the occasional male rat that kills females and
even related young, do sometimes appear in nonhuman mammals
as well, to the detriment of both the individual and its companions.
Set against some of the past and contemporary horrors of
human history, acceptance of the view that aggression is basically
an adaptive behavior pattern involving a variety of complex
biological systems interacting with experience, even if correct,
may be interpreted as political naivete. We take this point.
In opposition, however, is another point. The truth may not
set you free, but it does make you somewhat better equipped
to cope with reality. Acceptance of important continuities
in stimulus, organism, response, and outcome components of
particular aggressive behaviors between nonhuman mammals and
people promotes a deeper and more comprehensive understanding
of human aggression. The goal of science is to understand,
predict, and control phenomena. In order to improve the latter
two of these, the first is required.
Adapted from D. Caroline Blanchard, Mark Hebert, and Robert
J. Blanchard. In press. Continuity versus (political) correctness:
animal models and human aggression. In Marc Haug and Richard
E. Whalen (Eds.), Animal Models of Human Emotion and Cognition,
Washington, D.C.: American Psychological Association. Adapted
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