(1981) say athletes are less aggressive; Aronson (1984) says they are more.
In fact, Walker (1990) says calls to domestic violence centers go up after the
man's team loses (displacement?). So, watching certain athletics may
increase hostility. There is much we do not know about anger, displacement,
catharsis, and the means of controlling our anger.
At the very least, research psychologists and psychotherapists should
more clearly define "catharsis." It is not playing or watching sports, writing
stories about aggression, fighting in a war, shocking someone in an
experiment, watching someone hit a Bobo doll, or watching TV violence. It is
well documented that watching, fantasizing, or acting out violence increases
the probability that you will be more violent in the future. In contrast, the end
result of catharsis is, in many cases, peace and calm, not aggression. Averill
& Nunley (1993) say expressing emotions in therapy can change a person's
view and interpretation of the situation. Also, expressing an emotion, such as
anger, can result in finding ways to change the irritating situation. Once the
released emotion is discussed with a therapist or friend, you are in a better
position to make plans for coping with the feelings and the circumstances.
Obviously, some people can calm themselves down, i.e. reduce their anger.
Anger control and health seem to be related to feeling in control (see self-
efficacy in chapter 14), trusting and accepting others or at least not seeing
them as mean, selfish, and exploitative, and being able to assertively express
our negative feelings (see chapter 13). These are skills many of us need to
learn (Lewis & Bucher, 1992).
A historical overview of the Frustration-Aggression Theory
When the frustration-aggression hypothesis was proposed and researched by
psychologists, Dollard and Miller, almost 65 years ago, it was generally accepted as a
statement of clinical judgment at the time and it opened the way to extensive
research of these important topics. The theory suggests that frustration creates a
readiness and an urge to aggress and it implies that the act of aggression is always
preceded by frustration. It sounded like a useable causal relationship: when you see
aggression, go looking for the needs and wants that have been frustrated. Or when
you want to reduce the aggression, try to reduce the frustration. In the intervening
65 years hundreds of studies have been done. So, today, psychologists recognize the
old theory still has some general validity but few would claim this simple theory
explains all acts of aggression. There are many causes and reasons for aggression,
not just frustration. Some people will be aggressive just for money or other pay offs.
Others will do things to make someone feel very uncomfortable just because an
authority told them to. In a rather common case, people go to war without being
personally frustrated but because politicians urge that radical action (which may end
their lives). On the other hand, seemingly real and serious frustration will not cause
some people to be aggressive. Facing barriers to reaching an important goal may
lead to other responses, not just to aggression; some might respond with useless or
helpless responses and others might calmly respond with efforts to remove the
Great complexity has been discovered in the frustration-aggression situation (Geen &
Donnerstein, 1998). When any situation or human response is studied intensely and
scientifically, you might expect the outcome to be complex. Humans do not have a
fixed specific response to frustration, but an angry, aggressive response, among