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Aggression – The Psychology of Aggression

5. The Frustration-Aggression Hypothesis

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About this Lecture


In this lecture, we think about the frustration-aggression hypothesis, proposed by Dollard et al. in 1939, focusing in particular on: (i) this theory's suggestion that aggression arises not from a person’s genetics or personality but rather from situational factors; (ii) Dollard and colleagues' identification of frustration as the experience of having one’s goals thwarted and their consideration of it as an important instigator of aggressive behaviour; (iii) different factors affecting aggression caused by frustration; (iv) the concept of ‘displaced aggression’, which describes the suggestion that aggression can also be directed towards a target other than the original cause of frustration (e.g. acting aggressively towards a policeman because you are frustrated with the law); (v) a more recent psychological model of aggression that has developed out of the frustration-aggression hypothesis being Berkowitz’s cognitive-neoassociation theory from 2012; (vi) the fact that this theory argues for a broader approach to aggression which highlights the connections between cognitions, emotions and behaviours.


In this course, Dr Claire Lawrence (University of Nottingham) explores the psychology of aggression and aggressive behaviour. In the first lecture, we think about the genetic basis for aggression, associated with the so-called ‘warrior gene’ MAOA. In the second lecture, we think about the neural and hormonal mechanisms involved in aggressive behaviour, including serotonin. In the third lecture, we think about the role of testosterone in aggressive behaviour. Next, we think about how social learning theory can help us to understand aggression as a learned behaviour. In the fifth and final module, we think about 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.

Cite this Lecture

APA style

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

MLA style

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

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