The ethological explanation of aggression (Fixed action patterns (FAP)…
The ethological explanation of aggression
Fixed action patterns (FAP)
These actions do not require learning (innate) and occur in specific conditions which have triggered the action
Tinbergen (1951) named FAPs
Research with Sticklebacks
If another fish enters its territory the stickleback fish will produce a fixed sequence of aggressive actions. The sign stimulus is its red underbelly
FAPs are produced by a neural mechanism known as an innate releasing mechanism (IRM) and are triggered by a sign stimulus
Sign stimulus--> Sensory recognition circuit ---> IRM ---> Motor circuits (releases the FAP)
Ethologists have shown that not all aggressive behaviour involves fighting but may be ritualised in the form of threat displays
These threat displays help animals estimate the strength of an animal before escalating it to a fight.
For example Gorillas use hooting and chest pounding to intimidate an opponent without the need for physical contact.
Fox (1978) found evidence of tribal warfare in human cultures such as 'fighting' in the Gaelic-speaking Tory Island, where threat displays appear to take place instead of aggression
Wolves and Doves
Some species have evolved fearsome weapons to help them become effective hunters. For example Wolves have got sharp teeth and powerful jaws
Lorenz (1952) claimed that species like this have instinctive inhibitions that prevent them from using their weapons on their own species. For example if two wolves are fighting if one exposes their neck then instinctive inhibitions prevent the dominant animal from continuing the fight.
Non hunting species,argued lorenz haven't evolved this inhibition as they don't have natural weapons so if two dove fight the losing one will just fly away. Lorenz believed humans are more like doves as we do not have natural weapons. However science and technology has led to the development of the most powerful weapons, however we haven't got the instinctive inhibition so humans do kill humans.
Criticisms of an 'instinctive' view of aggression
Lehrman (1953) criticised Lorenz for being too simplistic in his ideas of the role of the environment
Nowadays the word FAP has been replaced by 'behaviour pattern' to show that these behaviours are not innate and can be changed by experience
Do humans have fixed action patterns for aggression
Eibl-Eibesfeldt (1972) identified a number of human FAPs or human universals. e.g. smiling.
He suggests FAPs such as aggression are no longer adaptive in modern times
Although non human species respond aggressively to specific sign stimuli, human behaviour is far more varied and less predictable.
A problem for the hydraulic model
Lorenz argued that when levels of ASE reached a critical point, this would lead to a reduction in biological energy and a corresponding reduction in the likelihood of aggressive behaviour
This argument was challenged by Von Holst (1954) showed that the performance of aggressive behaviour could lead to a higher likelihood of further aggressive behaviour being more likely.
The benefits of ritualised aggression
In non human species, the main advantage of ritualised aggression is that it prevents conflicts escalating into potentially dangerous physical aggression.
Chagnon (1992) describes how among the Yanomamo people of South Africa, chest pounding and club fighting can settle conflict in short amounts of violence.
Similarly, Hoebel (1967) found that among Inuit Eskimos, song duels are used to settle disputes and grudges.
MAIN RESEARCHER= KONRAD LORENZ