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Ramirez, J. Martin
University Complutense Madrid, Spain.

Archer, John
University of Central Lancashire, UK

Symposium Abstract

After a brief report of the conclusions contributed by a pre-conference meeting (the 15th International Colloquium on the Brain and Aggression), which focused specially on the different methods used in cross-cultural research on human aggression, this symposium deal s mainly with the following topics: 1) limitations in the measuring instruments, and analysis of those most suited to particular contexts, based on serious studies of each culture; 2) sex/gender differences in physical aggression, with: a) a meta-analysis of 82 studies in different cultures; b) an ethological study of Mongolian children in European Russia; and c) a socio-political approach to 'femaleness' stereotypes in Southern Africa;  3) moral justification of aggression: a) instrumental beliefs as a way of getting what one wants or deserves, in USA and France; and b) aggressive acts of different quality and intensity in different social circumstances, in Findland, Poland, Spain, USA, Iran, Japan and Southafrica; 4) different cultural mechanisms of preventing aggression, from an anthropological prospective.


Archer, J.
University of Central Lancashire, UK.

A recent meta-analyic review of sex differences in physical aggression to heterosexual partners, and its physical consequences (Archer, 2000) is outlined, and discussed in terms of the limitations of its data base. The overall findings were that women were slightly more likely (d = -.05) than men to use one or more act of physical aggression, and to use such acts more frequently. Men were more likely (d = .15) to inflict an injury, and overall 62 per cent of those injured by a partner were women. These findings partially support previous claims that different methods of measurement produce conflicting results, but there was also evidence that the sample was an important moderator of effect size. This finding is particularly noteworthy because 72 of the 82 studies on which the first conclusion was based were from the US, and another seven from the UK or Canada. The studies were also biased towards those involving high school or college dating couples (N = 42). Similarly, most of the 17 studies yielding injury data were from the US, and seven involved students in dating relationships. Thus the conclusions are considerably limited by the available data base, which is biased towards young dating samples in the US. Cross-cultural surveys of the incidence of marital violence tend to concentrate on the more serious forms of violent acts, and tend to be restricted to female victimization. The very few studies of community samples (in Korea, Nigeria, Japan and India) have all found effect sizes in the male direction for acts of physical aggression, which contrast with a more symmetrical pattern in US community samples. Cross-cultural variations are discussed in terms of two conflicting norms about physical aggression to partners that operate to different degrees in different cultures. The feasibility of collecting data from different cultures using standardised measures is discussed.


Butovskaya M.L. and Vorotnokova O.S.
Laboratory of Evolutionary Anthropology, Division of Cultural Anthropology, Russian State University for the Humanities,  Moscow, Russia.

The nature of gender differences in aggression is one of the most disputable problems in research on aggression. It is know that differences between sexed are expressed very yearly and at the of 2-2,5 boys are already different in some patterns compared to girls. Socialization for and counter aggression in different cultures may resulted in different rates of violence (Fry, 1988). The aim of this study is to analyse the structure of aggressive behaviour in the group of 6-7 year old primary school children from one of the urban national schools in Kalmykia (Butovskaya, Guchinova 1998). Kalmyks are Mongolian people residing in the European part of Russia, nomadic in the past, Buddhists by religion. The group of 20 (11 boys and 9 girls) were observed daily in April-Ma,1996. Data were collected by videotyping. Ethological method of focal child observations was used (12 samples of 5 minutes duration for each child). All data were collected during free play sessions with out any kind of interventions from the side of adults. Significant gender differences were found for contact aggression (actors: boys 22,09 8,54, girls 7,11 3,22, p<0,05; recipients: boys 19,64 8,38, girls 10,11 7,15, p<0,05). Boys initiated most aggressive interactions, and boys were most probable objects of aggressive attacks. Frequencies of non-contact aggression were of comparable rate for actors, though girls were significantly less frequent recipients in this case either (boys 11,00 5,29, girls 5,67 2,65, p<0,05). Matrix permutation tests based on 1000 permutations were applied to demonstrate the high level of positive correlation between levels of contact aggression and friendly contacts, both initiated and received (Kendel, =0,259, p<0,001 and =0,306, p<0,001 respectively). No gender differences were found in the level of post-conflict peacemaking. Post-conflict reunion tendency in this group were 70%, that is higher, than in Rissian or US group of children studied by the same method earlier (Verbeek, 1997; Butovskaya, Kozintsev 1999). This study was supported by RFBR,#99-06-80346 & RFHR, #96-01-00032.


Theron,  W.H., Matthee, D.D. and Ramirez*, J.M.
Department of Psychology, University of Stellenbosch,  South Africa. *University Complutense of  Madrid, Spain

The proposed comparative study examines direct and indirect aggression as expressed by 148 South African and 174 Spanish female university students. As part of a collaborative project on attitudes and beliefs about aggression in Spanish and South African populations, this study provides the prospect of an enhanced cross-cultural understanding of aggression, as well as the potentiality of a clearer delineation of aggression in the South African context. Following recent trends in the study of female aggression, this investigation involves only female respondents, in order to avoid the construction of female aggression as a counterpart of male aggression and the construction of "femaleness" as a homogenous category. The results will be discussed from a socio-political stance, with consideration of women's position in dominant social discourses of aggression. Women's choice of aggressive strategy has traditionally been limited by social norms and their (dis)position as the so-called weaker sex, thus requiring them to resort to covert strategies, such as indirect aggression. Given the changes in socio-political structures, particularly in South Africa where the empowerment of women has become an incisive issue, the question is whether this will expand the availability of overt (or direct) aggressive strategies to women. A further issue that will be taken into account, is that of gender stereotyping. Although the concept of indirect aggression has been employed in refuting the myth of the non-aggressive female, it runs the risk of reifying another myth, namely that of the wily, manipulative female. In conclusion, this investigation wishes to contribute towards a clarification of the role of culture in the study of female aggression.


Theron, W.H. and  Painter, D.W.
Department of Psychology, University of Stellenbosch, South Africa.
*Department of Psychology,Rhodes University, South Africa.

The cross-cultural study of aggression can contribute to South Africa's struggle with violence, but it can also be confounding. The question should always be asked: is culture sufficiently conceptualised in a given cross-cultural study of aggression, and argues that the value of this theoretical model is curbed by psychology's methodological preoccupations. Restricting the operationalisation of social representations to a standardised questionnaire (such as the EXPAGG) reduces the construct in two ways relevant to the eventual understanding of culture. First, it reduces social representations to individual beliefs about aggression. Second, these beliefs are predetermined by the questionnaire and not provided by the people studied. In this way culture is effectively taken out of the equation: these restrictions make it impossible to address culture as a shared system of meanings (representations) negotiated between people in a given context. Along with this, culture is also rendered transparent in another way, namely by neglecting any reflection on the social representations of aggression held by psychology as a discipline and informing the construction of instruments like the EXPAGG. In the light of this critique it is argued that any attempt to compare across cultures should be built upon a serious study of culture - at least in illustration of how aggression is represented as an object of psychology by research subjects and their researchers alike. In a social representations mould this would mean attending to the actual construction and use of ideas and theories about aggression in these contexts. The intended outcome of this critique is not discrediting of cross-cultural work; rather, it is an attempt to suggest ways that will yield even richer results when comparisons across cultures are made. It may also provide the groundwork for the construction of measuring instruments more suited to a particular (specifically South African) context.


Richardson, D.S., Huguet*, P. and Schwartz, D.
Department of Psychology, Florida Atlantic University, Florida, USA. *Université Blaise Pascal.  FALTA PAIS

This study examined instrumental beliefs about and experiences with aggression among university students from the United States and France. An instrumental view of aggression is associated with considering harming others as a means of gaining control or power and of maintaining oneís self-esteem and reputation (Campbell, 1993). Thus the instrumental view suggests that aggression might be an acceptable way of getting what one wants or deserves. We expected that the relatively violent social context in the United States would be related to more instrumental beliefs about aggression, more experience with aggression, and more organized beliefs about aggression among students from that country. University students from the United States (n=146) and from France (n=97) indicated the extent to which they agreed with 20 instrumental statements derived from Campbellís EXPAGG scale. They also answered a series of questions about their direct and indirect experience with aggression (i.e., as aggressor, victim, witness). As expected, students from the United States reported more experience as aggressors, victims, and witnesses of aggression, and they were more likely to indicate that they were answering the questions with reference to recent personal experience with aggression. They also had a more organized concept of instrumental aggression, as reflected in considerably higher internal consistency (alphas = .91 vs. .63) among their responses. However, students from the United States and those from France did not differ in their overall score on the scale of instrumental beliefs about aggression. Upon closer examination and further analysis, we discovered that this absence of a difference was due to French students having more instrumental views on items that associated aggression with control of self and other, and US students having more instrumental views on items that dealt with public displays of aggression. That is, French students were more likely to consider aggression as a means of controlling other people whereas US students were more likely to value public displays of aggressive behavior. In sum, we found evidence that the relatively violent social context in the United States might be related to more experience with aggression and more organized ideas about such behavior. However, extent to which individuals accept beliefs about aggression depends on the particular purpose that aggression might serve.


Ramirez, J.M., Lagerspetz*, K., Fraçzek**, A.,  Fujihara***, T.,  Musazahdeh****, Z. and  Theron*****, W.H.
University Complutense of  Madrid, Spain. * University of Turku, Finland. ** University of Warsaw, Poland. *** Kwansei Gakuin University, Japan. **** University  Complutense  of Madrid, Spain-Iran. ***** Universiteit van Stellenbosch, Southafrica.

Along the last two decades  studies on moral approval of aggressive acts, that follow the original work of  Kirsti Lagerspetz in Finland (Lagerspetz and Westman, 1980), were conducted in several countries over the world ( Poland: Fraczek,1985; Fraczek, Ramirez, and Torchalska, 1987; Spain: Ramirez,1991,1993; Japan: Ramirez and Fujihara, 1997; Japan, USA and Spain: Fujihara, Kohyama, Andreu and Ramirez, 1999; Iran: Musazahdeh, 1999;  Southafrica: Theron, in preparation). In the studies completed in all mentioned countries  a nationally adapted version of the Lagerspetz and Westman  questionnaire applied to university students was used to collect data. The moral judgement of several aggressive acts of different quality and intensity have been analyzed in the context of different social circumstances that may justify them. Although the realized studies are not fully comparative from a methodological point of view (e.g. different samples, different time of collecting data, different number of alternatives, etc), comparison of patterns of moral approval of aggressive acts characteristic for national sample leads to cognitively interesting conclusions.  In all countries: more drastic forms of aggressive acts (e.g. killing, torture) are less accepted, while common and not dangerous forms of  such behavior (e.g. hindering, shouting) are relatively more accepted. Aggressive acts that are socially justified (e.g. in order to protect others, in self defense) are clearly more accepted that ones with no such justification (e.g. as an expression of  emotions, as a result of  communication  difficulties). However, both in relation  to  seriousness as well as to the kind of justification of manifested aggression there are striking differences among studied countries. Irony is considered in Poland, Spain, USA as relatively less harmful behavior yet, is treated as quite serious offense in Finland, Japan and Iran. Aggressive behavior as a means of punishment has very low acceptance  in Finland, Poland, Spain and USA while relatively high in Japan and Iran.  Thus, it can be concluded that  patterns of  moral approval of various forms of aggressive acts  are only to some extent common in contemporary world, while differences among countries in these attitudes are culturally bounded. Besides it, a study done in Finland with people of several professional backgrounds other than university students (Lagerspetz, Björkqvist, Björkqvist & Lundman,1988) showed that different groups of people within the same country may have rather differing attitudes toward aggression.


Fry, D.P.
Äbo Akademi University, Finland  and University of Arizona, USA

The prevention of aggression has received scant attention within anthropology. This paper draws on fieldwork conducted in Finland and among Mexican Zapotecs as well as on descriptions of conflict found in the worldwide ethnographic literature to discuss certain recurring preventive measures. It is noted that prevention has different levels: 1) prevention of aggression in the first place and 2), following aggression, the prevention of a) escalation among the original actors, and/or b) the spread of aggression to other individuals. Additionally, the anthropological descriptions suggest that sometimes prevention of aggression largely reflects individual decisions and actions, although in other contexts prevention of aggression entails various group-level phenomena. In fact, prevention mechanisms might be viewed as running along a continuum from the individual to the group level. Cross-cultural sources illustrate cultural variations and also recurring patterns. Specifically, aggression is prevented via diverse psychocultural mechanisms such as internalization of self-restraint towards expressing anger, self-restraint towards expressing aggression, socialized sensitivity toward the emotional state and needs of other persons, socially institutionalized systems of sharing and reciprocal cooperation, the use of apology and the showing of remorse, the activities of third parties (such as ìfriendly peacemakers,î mediators, arbitrators, and so on) to separate combatants and/or to help them settle a dispute without (further) aggression. It is concluded that prevention activities are probably much more prevalent than might be indicated by the dearth of anthropological studies that focus on this topic. In closing, brief consideration is given to possible benefits of prevention activities for the individual(s) engaged in such actions.