others, is common enough that the old hypothesis can still help us try to understand
and change behavior in this situation. Frustration may simply involve an arousal of
our energy level and this increased drive level may increase the intensity of a host of
different reactions, some wanted and some not.
Social Learning Theory
This theory denies that humans are innately aggressive and that
frustration automatically leads to aggression. Instead Bandura (1973) argues
that aggression is learned in two basic ways: (1) from observing aggressive
models and (2) from receiving and/or expecting payoffs following aggression.
The payoffs may be in the form of (a) stopping aggression by others, (b)
getting praise or status or some other goal by being aggressive, (c) getting
self-reinforcement and self praise, and (d) reducing tension. The Social
Learning Theory also incorporates cognitive processes, like rational problem-
solving, "trial runs" in fantasy to see what might happen if I did _____ , and
the self-control procedures of self-observation, self-evaluation, and self-
reinforcement. Even children are able to control their aggression if they have
some understanding of why someone else frustrated them (Mallick &
McCandless, 1966). We have discussed Social Learning Theory in chapters 4,
5, and 6.
We all frequently face an environment that presents frustrating,
unpleasant experiences as well as cues that suggest there would be certain
payoffs for different courses of action. Inside us are various emotional
responses, such as anger, various motivations and urges to seek certain
payoffs, and complex cognitive processes for weighing the pros and cons for
different alternative responses, including aggression or violence, passive
withdrawal, depression, increased striving to succeed, reasonable "assertive"
handling of the situation, and other possible responses. Eventually, the
person chooses a response and acts, and then the result of that response is
observed and evaluated in terms of its effectiveness. If the response is
reinforced, it is likely to be used again.
Tavris (1984), a spokesperson for this point of view, argues that anger is
a social event, a way of saying "Hey, I'm hurting and you're in my way." She
criticizes (a) the ethnologists' instincts, (b) the Freudians' unconscious
motives, (c) the clinicians' unresearched opinions based on sick people, and
(d) the therapists' and pop-psych idea of expressing "built up" anger. She
says all these views erroneously suggest that anger is beyond our control and
overlook the real causes of frustration. Tavris believes in human choice and
self-control. She thinks we continue to use our violence because "aggression
pays" and because the other theories provide excuses for being angry.
There is no doubt that aggression pays off. Parents who yell and threaten
punishment get results. The child who hits the hardest gets the toy. The
brother who is willing to be the most vicious in a fight wins. The teacher who
gives the hardest tests and threatens to flunk the most students gets the
most study time from students. The spouse who threatens to get the maddest
gets his/her way. The male who acts the most macho and aggressive gets the
praise of certain groups of males.