By Anju Miura
No matter how laid-back and cool tempered you are, we all have days when we’re angry at just about everything.
Aggression is in human nature, and unfortunately, we hurt one another all the time.
We throw a temper tantrum when our friend doesn’t want to do what we want to, or project our aggression on others to our assert dominance. But why do we do this? Why can’t people just be nice?
Where does aggression come from?
Biochemically, levels of hormones such as testosterone and glucocorticoids have been shown to determine aggression in humans and animals alike.
Neuroscientists, however, claim that impulse control is the force behind violence and anger.
Although no specific area of the brain controls aggression entirely, the limbic system facilitates how we control our everyday impulses to lash out or not. A 2001 study on criminality revealed a link between aggression and diminished activity in the frontal lobes, impacting the limbic system.
Social psychologists point out the situational factors such as the frustration-aggression hypothesis, which is the idea that people become aggressive when they are blocked from reaching a goal.
For instance, a pitcher is more likely to hit a batter with a ball when they frustrated by a recent play.
The opposite of aggression: altruism
Although a combination of biological and social factors can lead to outbursts of rage, the world doesn’t always seem so bad.
In addition to aggression, we all have the opposing trait: altruism. As humans, we have moments of selflessness or even self-sacrifice. Think about random kindness.
Why on certain days do we decide to leave a dollar or two for a homeless person or help an elderly woman with their groceries?
We act altruistically because we believe in the good of humanity. We expect the people we helped will go on to help others. And in a way, we hope this “karma” will help us in the future.
Self-interest sometimes contributes to our “nice” behavior, encouraging us to want to help others to feel better about ourselves. But self-interest plays a role in conflict as well, feeding into our greed and competitive behaviors.
Why can’t we always be selfless and nice to others?
It’s hard to argue that the world would be a better place if everyone behaved altruistically. But the reality is not that simple.
John Darley and Bibb Latane’s bystander effect found that people are prone to help others only if they notice the incident, interpret it as an emergency and assume responsibility for it.
You may feel the responsibility to aid someone when you are the only person around, however, you may not feel the same way when many people are around because you assume someone else can handle it.
The famous example of the bystander effect surrounds the murder of Kitty Genovese. Despite the presence of numerous witnesses, no one called police or attempted to help Genovese because all of them had the same thought: “Someone else will do it.”
This psychological phenomenon, the bystander effect, can weaken the human instinct of altruism.
The solution lies in sympathy and cooperation
One solution to combat our darker human aggressions is the power of sympathy: be responsible as a part of the society.
We tend to behave through minimizing the cost and maximizing the benefit. Nevertheless, you won’t lose anything, except a minute, by calling the police to help an innocent woman stabbed by a maniac.
Instead of perceiving others as a stranger, understand that each person is equally as valuable as you are and that we all hold many of the same goals. You may then work together with your classmates when you recognize your common goal of getting a good grade.
You could even stop your aggressive driving habits if you take a second to realize that all drivers, including yourself, have the same common goal: arriving at the destination quickly and safely.