Heat And Aggressive Behavior

This seven-page undergraduate paper discusses aggressive behavior. In psychiatric populations, impulsivity has been reported in conjunction with aggressive behavior in several contexts. Laboratory research has shown that hot temperatures can, when coupled with provocation, increase a person’s willingness to hurt another person.

Heat and Aggressive Behavior: A Scrutiny

For example, it is reported that among psychiatric inpatients, impulsivity as measured by psychometric instruments was one of the few personality variables that were correlated more strongly with the risk of violent behavior (r = .53) than with suicidal behavior (r = .22). Plutchik and van Praag (1995) reported that up to 30% of the variance in aggressive behavior can be accounted for by impulsivity as an independent variable. Finally, the comorbidity of aggressive behavior and impaired impulse control characterizes “intermittent explosive disorder”. In the present study, we examined whether a relationship between impulsivity and aggressive behavior could be detected in normal controls under controlled laboratory conditions, when aggression was defined operationally as the deliberate presentation of an aversive stimulus to another person.
Aggression has been defined as “an overt act, involving delivery of noxious stimuli to . . . another organism, object or self” (Patel & Hope, 1992). Impulsivity has been defined as “acting without adequate reflection, spur of the moment reactions, taking risks, and trying to get things done quickly” (Barratt & Patton, 1983). Lorr and Wunderlich (1985) proposed two main components/axes of impulsivity: (a) resisting urges (as opposed to succumbing to urges) and (b) responding immediately to a stimulus (as opposed to planning a response). Most laboratory research on human impulsivity conducted to date has explored “choice” behavior under differing delays and magnitudes of reinforcement and has operationalized impulsivity as the choice of a smaller, more immediate reward over a larger, delayed reward.
Two archival studies examined the relation between year-to-year shifts in temperature and violent and property crime rates in the United States. Study 1 examined the relation between annual average temperature and crime rate in the years 1950-1995. As expected, a positive relation between temperature and serious and deadly assault was observed, even after time series, linear year, poverty, and population age effects were statistically controlled. Property crime was unrelated to annual average temperature. Study 2 examined the relation between the average number of hot days (>90°F) and the size of the usual summer increase in violence for the years 1950-1995. As expected, a positive relation was observed between number of hot days and magnitude of the summer effect, even after time series and linear year effects were statistically controlled. For property crime, the summer effect was unrelated to number of hot days.
(Anderson, 1997).
Understanding human aggression and violence requires an initial and crucial distinction between individual violence and group violence. In general terms, it is the least socialized who are disproportionately involved in individual violence, whereas it is often the best socialized who are involved in intergroup violence. This is not to say that well socialized members of a culture are never involved in violence between individuals, nor that poorly socialized members of a culture never appear in group conflict. Nor is it to say that social norms and group dynamics are irrelevant to individual violence. Still, the distinction is important because the origins of individual violence are mostly to be found in individual differences that tell us little about group conflict. Instead the origins of group conflict are to found in social perceptions of groups (stereotypes), social constructions of events, group dynamics and cultural norms. Violence is not only in individuals and groups, however; it is often in the system–the rules of the game, the whole culture. Relativists may say that no culture is better than another, that the only test of culture is survival. Social psychologists have shown in laboratory experiments that simply being in a hot room makes people feel angrier than being in a comfortable room. Aggressive thoughts also increase. Other laboratory research has shown that hot temperatures can, when coupled with provocation, increase a person’s willingness to hurt another person. Heat disorder results from unaccustomed or prolonged exposure to excessive heat causing the body’s cooling mechanism to break down leading to damages to the body’s heat regulating mechanism. Heat exhaustion and heat stroke are similar problems, but they are not the same. Heat exhaustion refers to overheating of the body due to excessive loss of fluids or in rare cases salt depletion. Heat stroke, a more severe condition that occurs when the body’s thermoregulatory system stops working. Heat exhaustion is not fatal but heat stroke can be and can bring about an irreversible coma and even death. A heat disorder results when a person engages in physical activity to the extent where the heat production within his body exceeds its ability to lose heat adequately. This results in a rise in inner body (body core) temperature to the levels at which normal body functions are interfered with. This may lead to temporary or permanent disturbances in bodily functions.
Other research supporting the link between heat and violence shows that regional differences in violent crime rates are related to regional differences in ambient temperature. Many studies—some going back to crime records in several European countries gathered in the last century—show that hotter regions of a country tend to have higher violent crime rates. Interestingly, nonviolent crimes do not tend to show this same hot region increase in criminality. A study in the April 1996 issue of the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, Vol. 70, No. 4, 740–756 on regional differences in violent crime rates in large U.S. cities ruled out many other potential causes of heat effect on violent crime, such as poverty, population size and regional cultures supportive of violence.
The study found that U.S. cities with hotter climates have higher violent crime rates.
Other research has found that hotter days, months and seasons produce higher-than-normal crime rates. The December 1997 issue of the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, Vol. 73, No. 6, 1213–1223 reported on two studies that examined the relation between hotness of year and violent crime rate in the United States from 1950 to 1995. One study found that summer produced more violent crime—murders and assaults—than the other seasons. If high temperature was a direct cause of the summer effect, then years with more hot days (days in which the maximum temperature is at least 90F) would have somewhat larger increases in murder and assault than years with fewer hot days. This prediction was confirmed by the data.
A second study examined the relation between the average temperature for each year and the corresponding murder and assault rate for the same 46-year period. If hot temperatures have a direct effect on violent behavior, then hotter years should (on average) produce higher violent crime rates. This is exactly what happened. The combined murder-and-assault rate was consistently higher in hotter years than in cooler ones. These results occurred even when the data were statistically controlled for the poverty rate, age shifts in the U.S. population and the general upward drift of violent crime during the period.
Several biological mechanisms appear plausible. The most biological of these mirror many of
the proximate biological factors discussed earlier: hormones, neurochemical transmitters, and
general level of arousal. Some psychological variables with links to aggression also appear to have
some genetic basis. Empathy, behavioral inhibition, negative affectivity, extraversion, neuroticism,
and psychoticism all have yielded evidence of some heritability, and have obvious links to
aggression. General intelligence may also link biological variation to aggressiveness; low
intelligence increases the occurrence of frustrating failures and aversive conditions, which might
increase the likelihood of aggressive personality development.
An association between ambient temperature and role overload has some intuitive appeal on the basis of people’s everyday experience that we work less, and less efficiently, when we feel that it is too hot. A tropical climate makes people less inclined to work. Indeed, empirical studies have demonstrated that ambient heat usually reduces a worker’s quantitative and qualitative output because he or she cannot get rid of the heat produced by the human body. An interesting research-based chain of connections between the nasal intake of hot air, insufficient cooling of arterial blood supplied to the cavernous sinus, insufficient cooling of the hypothalamic temperature, and negative affect. Measures of negative affect exhibit traitlike stability when longer-term instructions are used (e.g., “past year” or “in general” ), whereas they are sensitive to fluctuations in mood when short-term instructions are used (e.g., “right now” or “today”) . it is the cross-national and cross-cultural researcher’s task to elaborate a research design by strategically adding dimensions so as to rule out alternative explanations for the predicted effect or effects. We could overlook crucial economic, cultural, organizational, occupational, and personal variables that might produce a spurious correlation between ambient temperature and role overload. To reduce the risk of accepting as true a positive temperature-overload relation that is in fact false, we decided to explore whether a heat-overload link, if any, could be an artifact of some third variable other than power distance. Compared to the theory of heat-affect-overload, the theory of climate- culture-overload better explains the positive correlation between power distance and role overload. Overall, the assumption that middle managers inhale outside air because they are working out in the elements is not credible. It is more plausible that a climate-based cooperative culture tends to reduce experiences of both role overload and power distance. That is, most likely the cooperatives found in cold climates will foster relatively small power distances. Indeed, organizations in cooler countries, having less competitive employees, are less centralized and are differentiated horizontally rather than vertically. Not surprisingly, they are embedded in national cultures characterized by less conservatism and hierarchy and more autonomy, egalitarian commitment, and harmony. Taken together, and given the temperature-overload link, these findings may indicate that the positive correlation between power distance and role overload is a spurious one.

Works Cited

1. Barratt, E. S., & Patton, J. H. (1983). Impulsivity: Cognitive, behavioral, and psychophysiological correlates. In M. Zuckerman (Ed.), Biological bases of sensation seeking, impulsivity and anxiety (pp. 17-116). Hillsdale, NJ: Erlbaum.

2. Lorr, M., & Wunderlich, R. A. (1985). A measure of impulsiveness and its relation to extroversion. Educational and Psychological Measures, 45, 251-257.

3. Patel, V., & Hope, R. (1992). A rating scale for aggressive behaviour in the elderly. Psychological Medicine, 22, 211-221.

4. Plutchik, R., & van Praag, H. M. (1995). The nature of impulsivity: Definitions, ontology, genetics, and relations to aggression. In E. Hollander & D. J. Stein (Eds.), Impulsivity and aggression (pp. 7- 24). New York: Wiley.

5. Anderson, C.A., Anderson, K.B., Dorr, N., DeNeve, K.M., & Flanagan, M. (2000). Temperature and aggression. Chapter in Advances in Experimental Social Psychology, 32, 63-133.

6. Anderson, C.A., & Anderson, K.B. (1998). Temperature and aggression: Paradox, controversy, and a (Fairly) clear picture. Chapter in R. Geen & E. Donnerstein (Eds.) Human aggression: Theories, research and implications for policy. (pp. 247-298). San Diego, CA: Academic Press.

7. Vliert, Evert van de; Yperen, Nico W. van, Why cross-national differences in role overload? Don’t overlook ambient temperature! (social power in organizations). Vol. 39, Academy of Management Journal, 08-01-1996, pp 986(19).

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