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Frustration-Aggression Theory

 

Explanations > Theories > Frustration-Aggression Theory

Description | Research | Example | So What? | See also | References 

 

Description

When people perceive that they are being prevented from achieving a goal, their frustration is likely to turn to aggression.

The closer you get to a goal, the greater the excitement and expectation of the pleasure. Thus the closer you are, the more frustrated you get by being held back. Unexpected occurrence of the frustration also increases the likelihood of aggression.

Frustration does not always lead to aggression, particularly when we deliberately suppress it because either we know that it is wrong or we fear the social consequences of being aggressive (eg. losing friendship of target, criticism from others). As a result, we often displace aggression into other activity, such as sports, driving fast and so on.

Some people are more predisposed to aggression and find it harder to contain it. For such people, frustration is more likely to that lead directly to aggression than for other people with a calmer disposition or greater self-control.

Research

Barker, Dembo and Lewin (1941) put toys behind a wire screen where children could see them. When they eventually got to play with them, their play was very destructive.

Example

Football crowds can become aggressive when their team starts to lose. People in business can also become aggressive when others start to frustrate their ambitions.

So what?

Using it

You can cause tension by frustrating the other person, but beware of it turning to aggression.

Defending

Beware of people winding you up. If they dangle a carrot then whisk it away, either refuse to play or play hard, early and fast. 

See also

Aggression

References

Barker, Dembo and Lewin (1941)

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