Theories of Aggression

From Drives to Cognitions
  • Leonard D. Eron
Part of the The Plenum Series in Social/Clinical Psychology book series (SSSC)


The first comprehensive theoretical account of the etiology of aggression which assigned a major role to learning theory was the monograph, Frustration and Aggression by Dollard, Doob, Miller, Mowrer, and Sears (1939), a group of psychologists at Yale University. Up until that time most psychologists considered aggression to be instinctual in nature and inherent in human beings as it was in other animal species. Although convinced of the centrality of learning in the development of aggressive behavior, the authors of the monograph did not disagree with the idea that there was a biological basis to aggression. As a matter of fact, they were influenced to a significant degree by the psychoanalytic thinking of that time. For Freud, pleasure seeking and pain avoidance were the basic mechanisms of mental functioning, and frustration occurred when these activities were blocked. The Yale researchers, who were basically behaviorists, proposed, however, to translate the Freudian propositions into more objective behavioral terms which could be put to empirical test. For example, the Yale group’s hypothesis about instigation to injure the frustrator finds a close parallel in Freud’s (1915) statement that “if the object is a source of unpleasant feelings...” this can eventually lead to “an aggressive inclination against the object... an instigation to destroy it” (p. 137).


Aggressive Behavior Violent Behavior Aggression Relation Proactive Aggression Parental Nurturance 
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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 1994

Authors and Affiliations

  • Leonard D. Eron
    • 1
  1. 1.Research Center for Group Dynamics, Institute for Social ResearchUniversity of MichiganAnn ArborUSA

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