Frustration-aggression hypothesis

Dollard et al (1939) devised the frustration-aggression hypothesis, which postulated that any impediment to an individual’s achievement of a goal will give rise to feelings of frustration. From this, aggressive feelings and behaviour will always result. Thus a football player who fails to score in a match becomes frustrated, leading to aggressive behaviour towards others.

Albert Bandura

Bandura contributed signlificantly to the frustration-aggression hypothesis.

Leonard Berkowitz (1989) re-examined the frustration-aggression hypothesis and, while he concurred with the central principle, he imposed other conditions. His revised frustration-aggression hypothesis indicated that there are other factors such as external stimuli which play a role. Frustration may lead a person to develop feelings of aggression, but this is not always borne out in their behaviour. Rather than the direct link stated in the original frustration-aggression hypothesis, social norms and other environmental factors also have an effect. Social Learning Theory suggests that an individual learns behaviour from peers and significant individuals in his or her life, as seen in Albert Bandura’s Bobo Doll experiment (Bandura and Walters 1963). Here, children who witnessed an adult attacking a Bobo doll were more likely to copy that aggressive behaviour than other children who had not seen the attack. Berkowitz’s frustration-aggression hypothesis insisted that such social learning plays a part in the behaviour of individuals. An employee’s failure to get promotion may not result in aggression against their manager, as there is a social conditioning to respect individuals who are perceived as a superior. But if a peer is seen to be the cause of the failure, the employee’s frustration is more likely to result in verbal aggression towards that person.

So while the frustration-aggression hypothesis suggests a direct link, aggression may originate from other emotional states according to Berkowitz. A person’s perceptions play a role in the development of aggressive behaviour, but external factors, stimuli and social norms can also have an impact.

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