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Neurosci Biobehav Rev. 1993 Winter;17(4):405-25.

Aggression in humans: what is its biological foundation?

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  • 1Psychology Department, University of British Columbia, Vancouver, Canada.

Abstract

Although human aggression is frequently inferred to parallel aggression based on testosterone in nonprimate mammals, there is little concrete support for this position. High- and low-aggression individuals do not consistently differ in serum testosterone. Aggression does not change at puberty when testosterone levels increase. Aggression does not increase in hypogonadal males (or females) when exogenous testosterone is administered to support sexual activity. Similarly, there are no reports that aggression increases in hirsute females even though testosterone levels may rise to 200% above normal. Conversely, castration or antiandrogen administration to human males is not associated with a consistent decrease in aggression. Finally, changes in human aggression associated with neuropathology are not consistent with current knowledge of the neural basis of testosterone-dependent aggression. In contrast, human aggression does have a substantial number of features in common with defensive aggression seen in nonprimate mammals. It is present at all age levels, is displayed by both males and females, is directed at both males and females, and is not dependent on seasonal changes in hormone levels or experiential events such as sexual activity. As would be expected from current knowledge of the neural system controlling defensive aggression, aggression in humans increases with tumors in the medial hypothalamus and septal region, and with seizure activity in the amygdala. It decreases with lesions in the amygdala. The inference that human aggression has its roots in the defensive aggression of nonprimate mammals is in general agreement with evidence on the consistency of human aggressiveness over age, with similarities in male and female aggressiveness in laboratory studies, and with observations that some neurological disturbances contribute to criminal violence. This evidence suggests that human aggression has its biological roots in the defensive aggression of nonprimate mammals and not in hormone-dependent aggression based on testosterone.

PMID:
8309650
[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
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