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Aggression – The Psychology of Aggression

2. Serotonin

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In this module, we think about the neural mechanisms involved in aggressive behaviour, focussing in particular on the role of serotonin. First, we differentiate between two types of aggression, (i) instrumental and (ii) hostile, and explain why research into the role of neurochemicals tends to focus on the latter type. We consider research by New et al. (2004) which has shown that high levels of serotonin in the human body are linked to reduced aggression, before moving on to discuss a study by Crockett and Passamonti (2011) which can help to explain the neural mechanisms behind this phenomenon. Finally, we think about research by Hariri et al. (2002) which focusses on the serotonin transporter gene 5-HTT, arguing that the short allele version of this gene may constitute a genetic vulnerability to aggression.


In this course, Dr Claire Lawrence (University of Nottingham) discusses the psychology of aggression and aggressive behaviour. We begin, in module one, by thinking about the genetic basis for aggression, associated with the so-called ‘warrior gene’ MAOA. Next, we think about the neural and hormonal mechanisms involved in aggressive behaviour, focussing on the role of serotonin in module two and testosterone in module three. The fourth module considers how Social Learning Theory can help us to understand aggression as a learned behaviour, while module five focusses on the Frustration-Aggression Hypothesis as a social psychological model which argues that frustration, the feeling of having our goals thwarted, is a key factor in causing aggressive behaviour.


Claire Lawrence is an Associate Professor in the School of Psychology at the University of Nottingham.

She works predominantly in the area of individual differences and her research centres around the question: Why do some people act aggressively in some situations, and other people don't? She also examines whether some antisocial traits have benefits in a sexual selection context.

Her second main area of research is the unintended and negative impacts of behavioural interventions.

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APA style

Lawrence, C. (2019, September 27). Aggression – The Psychology of Aggression - Serotonin [Video]. MASSOLIT.

MLA style

Lawrence, C. "Aggression – The Psychology of Aggression – Serotonin." MASSOLIT, uploaded by MASSOLIT, 27 Sep 2019,

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