Many researchers speculate that violence in media has a direct link to aggressive behaviors and actions. There also seems to be particular attention paid to the male population, which caused me to explore whether there is a male predisposition to act more aggressively compared to females. The question then becomes, what are the other factors, beside violent content, that influences the likelihood of one individual acting more aggressively than another who is watching the same movie or playing the same video game?
In an article published by Cohn, Seibert and Zeichner (2009), they discussed other possibles factors such as trait anger and restrictive emotionality, which could influence these results. Trait anger is when an individual reacts with more intense anger for a longer time than others would. Restrictive emotionality occurs when an individual does not talk about their feelings. Society has taught men not to discuss their internal conflicts since it’s seen as a sign of weakness (which it isn’t), and this ultimately leads to feelings of emasculation. If men are not allowed to express themselves, and they are more prone to anger, then they may be more likely to act out aggressively as a means to manage the conflict.
This becomes particularly poignant when a man’s masculinity is questioned. As seen in the article by Cohn, Seibert and Zeichner (2009), aggression was measured by the frequency a participant would shock their opponent in each trial. Their findings concluded that angry men who are more reserved become aggressive or shocked their opponents more often if they thought their masculinity was being threatened. This shows that violent content is not the only factor that influences aggressive responses in males.
Masculinity is discussed in this article, and in many others, but what exactly is masculinity? What personality traits or features are masculine and which are not? Society creates gender-specific rules that we are often pressured to follow in order to be accepted by our peers. Any stress or anxiety associated with upholding gender roles is referred to as gender role stress. This means that males might be pressured to act more aggressively than desired due to societal pressure, or the concept of being “manly.”
Some characteristics associated with masculinity can be restrictive emotionality and add to the need to appear more dominant (Cohn and Zeichner). Although there is no clear definition of masculinity, the importance is laid at how closely men adhere to their perceived roles when it comes to aggressive behavior. The article concluded that aggressive behavior depends on a man’s subjective experience of adhering to male gender roles. Similar to the previous article, aggression is measured through frequency of shocks to other participants. Men who do not identify with traditional masculine roles might not feel the need to prove their dominance, and thus do not resort to more aggressive actions (distributed less shocks). Society has a large influence on how men view themselves.
The emphasis in this research has viewed the influence on male aggressive behavior, so the question naturally evolves to ask if women are also pressured to adhere to gender roles that influence their actions as well. I intend to examine gender roles and how societal pressure influences aggressive action further.
Photo Credit: Ketrin 1407 via Flickr
Contribution by A. Shaheen, fellow researcher and team member.