Definitions of the concepts of aggression, violence, and self-defense

Started by Volunto, Feb 07, 2023, 06:29 PM

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To make it possible to study the topic of violence as a form of behavior and social communication, we need to give this concept a concrete definition. In this case, as well as in the definition of another important concept – self-defense, we will start from the broader concept of aggression. An ethological approach will help us to solve this problem. Of course, the definitions thus obtained may differ from many other, more generally accepted definitions. However, exactly these definitions will make it possible for the most objective and accurate distinction between different forms of behavior from a biological point of view, which is extremely important for our study.

As a feeling, aggressiveness consists in anger, expressed as irritation, dissatisfaction, or hostility. However, aggression in intraspecific relationships can be defined as a form of social communication characterized by constrained actions, reactions, and social signals between participants in the conflict.

It is important to pay attention to this "constraint". It consists in rules and rituals of certain magnitude, expression, and sequence, which make aggression functional, dynamic yet structured behavior within inhibitory limits. Regardless of species-specific rules, these components are necessary for functionally driven aggression. Also, this inhibition of aggression is the main function of the violence inhibition mechanism, which we will discuss later.

The difference between violence and functional (or adaptive) aggression lies in the behavioral sequence or interaction dynamics between two or more conspecifics in combat. Violence is characterized by the absence of inhibitory control and the loss of adaptive functions in social communication.

As a quantitative behavior, violence is an escalated, pathological, and abnormal form of aggression characterized primarily by short attack latencies, and prolonged and frequent harm-oriented conflict behaviors. As a qualitative behavior, violence is characterized by attacks that are aimed at vulnerable parts of the opponent's body and context-independent attacks regardless of the environment or the sex and type of the opponent.

It is believed that functional aggression, unlike violence, is not anticipated to target vulnerable body parts even in the midst of an agonistic interaction unless challenged, as seen in defensive aggression.

According to the threat superiority effect, humans (like many species) have the ability to quickly and effectively detect threats in the environment, which allows them to activate defense mechanisms in time and adequately respond to the threat. Such a reaction can be expressed by flight or defensive aggression (it is also called a fight-or-flight response). Threat stimuli can be innate due to the fact that humans have encountered them in the course of biological evolution (for example, snakes), or acquired through experience due to the adaptation of defense mechanisms (for example, a knife or a gun). In addition, humans are more likely to recognize angry facial expressions from other humans than neutral and happy expressions, as well as expressions of sadness and fear.

Self-defense can be defined as a form of aggression performed in the presence of a threat in the environment and social signals. Also, in the case of intraspecific relationships, self-defense (or defensive aggression) is defined as a form of aggressive behavior performed in response to an attack by another individual. It is worth noting that extreme forms of defensive aggression can have violent characteristics. However, it is distinctly different from offense in terms of its behavioral expression and inhibitory control.