Instructor: Dr. V. E. Lasnik
Essay 4: Cause & Effect FINAL
A hot summer day in 1966 blazed across Texas as a man named Charles Whitman woke up and prepared for his day. He wrote a note and left it in his house; he got in his car and drove to the University of Texas. Upon his arrival, he casually walked towards a building with a tall tower. Charles made his way up to the top of the tower and unloaded a large duffel bag which contained rifles and ammunition. Students and faculty strolled along the walkways below tending to their business of the day while Whitman loaded his weapons in his perch high above them. He started shooting shocked and frightened people down on campus without any interest in his targets except they moved. Earlier in the week, he told his doctor he fantasized about “going up on the tower with a deer rifle and shooting people”. His doctor said he showed no signs of being serious. He killed fourteen people that day. People began the debate as to why Mr. Whitman would commit such heinous acts of aggression and the discussion continues even now in the 21st century every time a mass shooting occurs in a school, mall, or military base. The discussion flared just yesterday after a male gunman walked into the Seattle Pacific University and killed one young man and wounded four others before being contained by other students. There are two main groups of theory explaining sudden violent aggression in adults. These focus on the environmental and the biological. Basically, the environmental theories believe violent aggressive behavior is generated from outside factors in which a person responds to influences around them. The biological theories emphasize something organic or genetic is the 2 cause of aggressive behavior and beyond the control of the individual. This essay analyzes several causes of sudden violent aggression which result in mass death and injury from the biological perspective. Definition
According to Coon (2013), aggression refers to “any action carried out with the intention of harming another person and the human capacity for aggression is staggering.” (p.584). In fact, statistics showed over 58 million people died since World War II at the hand of another person. (Fox and Delateur, 2008). This information contained numbers for the whole world but the thought of so many people perishing from the acts of violence by another human being should give anyone great concern. Many studies also showed a correlation however of traits in common of those individuals committing such acts of violence leading to death.
According to statistics, Caucasian adult males make up over 90% of sudden mass murders in the United States and in other western countries. Almost all of the men showed no previous criminal records related to violent aggressive behavior but most of them shared some common background traits such as not having stable friendships or employment, a lack of strong empathic tendencies, single, and low tolerance for stress. These similarities reflect several biological causes of violent aggression such as genetics. (Van der Dennen, 2006).
Both the environmental and biological theories developed at roughly the same time. In the 1880s, when the study of psychology was becoming a profession, early psychologists such as Sigmund Freud and Ivan Pavlov developed the first theories on aggression through their research 3 in which environmental factors influence and provoke aggressive responses in both animals and humans. However, other theorists leaned more towards evolutionary biology. According to Morgan (2005), “Aggression could be environmental but it is undoubtedly genetic as prehistoric man has passed down his responses and behaviors to the subsequent generations and perhaps the lined has blurred between nature and nurture” (p.375).