Human-Environment Relationship

Human-Environment Relationship

  • The relationship between human behaviour and the environment plays a special role in our lives.
  • Environmental problems such as noise, air, water and soil pollution, and unsatisfactory ways of garbage disposal have damaging effects on physical health. These forms of pollution, along with many other hidden factors in the environment, influence psychological health and functioning as well. 
  • A branch of psychology called environmental psychology deals with various psychological issues pertaining to the human-environment interaction in a very broad sense of the term. 
  • ‘Environment’ refers to all that is around us, literally everything that surrounds us, including the physical, social, work, and cultural environment. 

It includes all the forces outside human beings to which they respond in some way. 

  • ‘Ecology’ is the study of the relationships between living beings and their environment. 
  • In psychology, focus is on the interdependence between the environment and people, as the environment becomes meaningful with reference to the human beings who live in it. 
  • Natural environment is that part of nature which remains untouched by human hand. 
  • Built environment is that part of nature which has been created by human beings within the natural environment. For example, cities, houses, offices, factories, bridges, shopping malls, railway tracks, roads, dams, and even artificially created parks and ponds, which show how human beings have made changes in the environment given by nature. 
  • The built environment usually involves the concept of ‘environmental design’. 
  • The idea of ‘design’ contains some psychological features, such as:

  • Different Views of the Human-Environment Relationship 

A psychologist named Stokols (1990) describes three approaches that may be adopted to describe the human-environment relationship:

Environmental Effects on Human Behaviour

Environmental Effects on Human Behaviour
1.    Environmental influences on perception 

  • Some aspects of the environment influence human perception. 
  • For example, a tribal society of Africa lives in circular huts i.e. in houses without angular walls. They show less error in a geometric illusion (the Muller-Lyer illusion) than people from cities, who live in houses with angular walls. 

2.    Environmental influences on emotions 

  • The environment affects our emotional reactions as well. For example, 
  1. Watching nature in any form, whether it is a quietly flowing river, a smiling flower, or a tranquil mountain top, provides a kind of joy that cannot be matched by any other experience. 
  2. Natural disasters, such as floods, droughts, landslides, quakes on the earth or under the ocean, can affect people’s emotions to such an extent that they experience deep depression and sorrow, a sense of complete helplessness and lack of control over their lives. 

Such an influence on human emotions is a traumatic experience that changes people’s lives forever, and can last for a very long time after the actual event in the form of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). 

3.    Ecological influences on occupation, living style and attitudes

  • The natural environment of a particular region determines whether people living in that region rely on: 
  1. Agriculture (as in the plains), or 
  2. Hunting and gathering (as in forest, mountainous or desert regions), or 
  3. Industries (as in areas that are not fertile enough for agriculture) 
  • In turn, the occupation determines the lifestyle and attitudes of the residents of a particular geographical region. For example,
  1. An agricultural society has to depend on the collective efforts of its members. Therefore, the members of an agricultural society develop an attitude of cooperativeness, and consider group interests more important than the individual’s wishes. They are also closer to nature, more dependent on natural events such as the monsoon, and may face situations in which necessary natural resources such as water are in limited supply. Accordingly, the members of an agricultural society may become more fatalistic in their beliefs. 
  2. On the other hand, highly industrialised societies feel less close to and less dependent on nature. Members of industrialised societies may value independent thinking, develop an attitude of competitiveness, and cultivate a belief of personal control over what happens to them.

Human Influence on the Environment

  • Human beings also exert their influence on the natural environment for fulfilling their physical needs and other purposes. 
  • All the examples of the built environment express human influence over the environment. For example, the human being started building something called ‘houses’ by changing the natural environment in order to provide shelter for herself/himself. 
  • Some of these human actions harm and damage the environment, and ultimately harm themselves, in numerous ways. For example, 

  • Human beings have brought about these effects in order to exhibit their control and power over the natural environment. 
  • It is somewhat paradoxical that human beings are using technology to change the natural environment in order to improve the quality of their life but, in reality, they may actually be worsening the quality of life. 
  • Noise, pollution, crowding, and natural disasters are some examples of environmental stressors, which are stimuli or conditions in the environment that create a stress for human beings. 


  • Any sound that is annoying or irritating, and felt to be unpleasant is said to be noise. 
  • Noise, especially for long periods of time, is uncomfortable, and puts people in an unpleasant mood. 
  • Exposure to noise for a long period of time may lead to hearing loss. 
  • Noise has negative effects on mental activity because it reduces concentration. 
  • Three characteristics of noise have been found to determine its effect on task performance: 

  • Effects of noise on human beings: 

a)  When the task being performed is a simple mental task, such as addition of numbers, noise does not affect overall performance, whether it is loud or soft. In such situations, people adapt, or ‘get used’ to noise. 

b)  If the task being performed is very interesting, then, too, the presence of noise does not affect performance. This is because the nature of the task helps the individual to pay full attention to the task, and ignore the noise. This may also be one kind of adaptation. 

c)  When the noise comes at intervals, and in an unpredictable way, it is experienced as more disturbing than if the noise is continuously present. 

d)  When the task being performed is difficult, or requires full concentration, then intense, unpredictable, and uncontrollable noise reduces the level of task performance. 

e)  When tolerating or switching off the noise is within the control of the person, the number of errors in task performance decreases. 

f) In terms of emotional effects, noise above a certain level causes annoyance, and can also lead to sleep disturbance. These effects are also reduced if the noise is controllable, or is necessary as a part of the person’s occupation. However, continued exposure to uncontrollable and annoying noise can have harmful effects on mental health. 

  • The stressful effects of noise are determined by: 

a) high or low intensity of the noise
b) the extent to which people are able to adapt to it
c) the nature of the task being performed
d) predictability of noise 
e) controllability of noise


  • Environmental pollution may be in the form of air, water, and soil pollution. 
  • Waste or garbage that comes from households or from industries are a big source of air, water, and soil pollution. 
  • Any of these forms of pollution is hazardous to physical health as well as psychological health. 
  • Any form of environmental pollution may affect the nervous system because of the presence of toxic substances and, to that extent, influence psychological processes in some way. 
  • Another form of influence is seen in the emotional reactions to pollution which, in turn, create discomfort, and have consequences such as: 
  1. Decreased work efficiency
  2. Lowered interest in the job
  3. Increase in anxiety level
  4. Decrease in the ability to concentrate
  5. Unpleasant mood
  • The presence of dust particles, or other suspended particles, may result in:
  1. Feeling of suffocation 
  2. Difficulty in breathing
  3. Respiratory disorders

Air Pollution

• People living in the industrial area reported greater tension and anxiety than those living in a non-industrial residential area. 
• The presence of pollutants such as sulphur dioxide in the air was found to decrease the ability to concentrate on a task, and lowering performance efficiency. 
• Pollution caused by leaks of dangerous chemical substances can cause other kinds of harm. The infamous Bhopal gas tragedy of December 1984 that claimed many lives, also left behind psychological effects because of the gas. 
Many of those who had inhaled the poisonous gas, methyl-isocyanate (MIC) along with other substances, showed disturbances in memory, attention and alertness. 
• There can be harmful air pollution in the home and office environment (indoor environments) also. 
For example, tobacco smoke pollution, that is, pollution through cigarette, cigar or beedi smoking, can also cause psychological effects. Such effects are supposed to be more dangerous for the smoker; however, those who inhale tobacco smoke (passive smoking) can also suffer the negative effects. Inhaling tobacco smoke can increase the aggression level of individuals. 
• Another source of toxicity is household and industrial waste, or garbage, which are non-biodegradable. Common examples of such waste are plastics, tin or any metal container. 
This kind of waste material should be destroyed or burned through special techniques, and the smoke should not be allowed to escape into the air that people breathe.

Water and Soil Pollution

•  The presence of polluting substances in water and soil are hazardous for physical health and, some of these chemicals can also have damaging psychological effects. 
•  The presence of specific chemicals such as lead can cause mental retardation by affecting brain development. 
•  Such toxic substances affect human beings through various routes, i.e. through water, or through soil by being absorbed by vegetables grown in polluted soil. 
Therefore, there is absolutely no doubt that all forms of pollution need to be curbed, as toxic chemicals in the air, water and soil may lead to harmful effects not only on normal psychological functioning, but may also cause serious mental disorders.


  • Crowds are large informal groups of persons coming together temporarily without any particular goal. 
  • Crowding refers to a feeling of discomfort because there are too many people or things around us, giving us the experience of physical restriction, and sometimes the lack of privacy. 
  • Crowding is the person’s reaction to the presence of a large number of persons within a particular area or space. When this number goes beyond a certain level, it causes stress to individuals caught in that situation. 
  • The experience of crowding has the following features: 

a)  Feeling of discomfort
b)  Loss or decrease in privacy
c)  Negative view of the space around the person
d)  Feeling of loss of control over social interaction

  • The experience of crowding is brought about not merely because of the large number of persons as such, nor merely because of the shortage of space. 

It is related to density i.e. the number of persons within the available space. 
Crowding is not necessarily always experienced in high density settings, and all people do not experience its negative effects to the same extent.

Effects of Crowding and High Density:
1. It may lead to abnormal behaviour and aggression. An increase in population has sometimes been found to be accompanied by an increase in violent crime. 

2. It leads to lowered performance on difficult tasks that involve cognitive processes, and has adverse effects on memory and the emotional state. 
These negative effects are seen to a smaller extent in people who are used to crowded surroundings. 

3. Children growing up in very crowded households show lower academic performance. 
They also show a weaker tendency to continue working on a task if they are unsuccessful at it, compared to children growing up in non-crowded households. 
They experience greater conflict with their parents, and get less support from their family members. 

4. The nature of social interaction determines the degree to which an individual will react to crowding. For example, if the interaction is on a happy social occasion, such as a party or public celebration, the presence of a large number of persons in the same physical setting may cause no stress at all. Rather, it may lead to positive emotional reactions. At the same time, crowding, in turn, also influences the nature of social interaction. 

5. Individuals differ in the degree to which they show negative effects of crowding, and also in the nature of these reactions. Two kinds of tolerance that may explain these individual differences are Crowding Tolerance and Competition Tolerance.

6. Cultural characteristics may determine the extent to which a particular environment is judged to be subjectively more crowded or less crowded. 
They may also affect the nature and extent of negative reactions to crowding. 
For example, 
-    In cultures that emphasise the importance of the group or collectivity over the individual, the presence of a large number of people in the surroundings is not taken as an undesirable state. 
-    On the other hand, in cultures that emphasise the importance of the individual over the group or collectivity, the presence of many other persons in the environment around us may make us uncomfortable. 
Overall, though, regardless of whether the culture considers the group more important than the individual, or the other way round, it is clear that in all cultures, crowding is experienced as being stressful.

7. Personal space, or the comfortable physical space one generally likes to maintain around oneself, is affected by a high density environment. 
In a crowded context, there is a restriction on personal space, and this can also be a cause of negative reactions to crowding. 


  • People respond to the physical environment in terms of space. 
  • In social situations, human beings like to maintain a certain physical distance from the person with whom they are interacting. This is called interpersonal physical distance.
  • Interpersonal physical distance is a part of a broader concept called personal space, i.e. the physical space we like to have all around us. 
  • One reason for the negative reactions to crowding is the decrease in personal space. 
  • Personal space can vary between people, between situations and settings, and between cultures. 
  • Edward Hall, an anthropologist, mentioned four kinds of interpersonal physical distance, depending on the situation:

    These distances are maintained voluntarily, keeping in mind the comfort experienced by the persons involved in the interaction. 
  • However, when there is a shortage of space, people are forced to maintain much smaller physical distance from each other (for instance, in a lift, or in a train compartment where there are too many people). 
  • In such cramped spaces, an individual is likely to feel crowded, even though objectively, the number of persons is not very large. 
  • People react to available space as a part of the physical environment. 
  • The person experiences stress and responds negatively — with a bad mood, or aggressively, and tries to leave the situation as soon as possible when the following are not maintained:
  1. freedom of movement
  2. sense of privacy
  3. personal space 
  • The concept of personal space is important because: 
  1. It explains many of the negative effects of crowding as an environmental stressor. 
  2. It tells us about social relationships. 
  3. It gives us some idea about how physical space can be modified in order to reduce stress or discomfort in social situations, or to make social interaction more enjoyable and fruitful. 

Natural Disasters

  • Natural disasters are stressful experiences that are the result of nature’s fury, i.e. the consequence of disturbances in the natural environment. Examples — earthquakes, tsunamis, floods, cyclones, and volcanic eruptions. 
  • These events are called ‘disasters’ because: 
  1. They cannot be prevented
  2. They usually come without any warning
  3. They result in immense damage to human lives and property
  • Natural disasters also lead to a psychological disorder, called post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). 
  • Science and technology have now progressed sufficiently to make it possible for human beings to predict these events, to some extent. 
  • Effects of Natural Disasters:

a) They leave people poverty-stricken, homeless, without any resources, usually along with a loss of everything they owned. 
b) The sudden loss of all their belongings as well as their dear ones leaves people shocked and stunned. 
This is sufficient to create a deep-seated psychological disorder. 
Natural disasters are traumatic experiences, i.e. emotionally wounding and shocking to those who survive the disaster. 
PTSD is a severe psychological problem that results from traumatic events such as natural disasters. 
PTSD has the following features:

1. The immediate reaction to a disaster is commonly one of disorientation. 
People take some time to understand the full meaning of what the disaster has done to them. They may actually deny to themselves that something terrible has happened. 

2. Physical reactions, such as: 
•    bodily exhaustion even without physical activity
•    difficulty in sleeping 
•    change in the eating pattern
•    increased heartbeat and blood pressure
•    getting startled easily can be found among the victims. 

3. Emotional reactions, such as: 
•    grief 
•    fear
•    irritability
•    anger (“Why should this happen to me?”)
•    helplessness
•    hopelessness (“I could do nothing to prevent this event”)
•    depression
•    sometimes absolute lack of emotion (numbness)
•    guilt feelings for having survived while someone else in the family died
•    blaming oneself
•    lack of interest in even routine activities

4. Cognitive reactions, such as: 
•    worry
•    difficulty in concentration
•    reduced span of attention 
•    confusion
•    loss of memory
•    vivid memories that are unwanted (or nightmares of the event)

5. Social reactions, such as: 
•    withdrawal from others
•    getting into conflict with others
•    having frequent arguments with even loved ones
•    feeling rejected or left out
Surprisingly, very often, in the midst of severe emotional reactions to stress, some survivors may actually help in the healing processes. Having been through the experience, yet survived it and staying alive, these persons may develop a positive outlook on life and, with empathy, pass on this attitude to other survivors. 

  • These reactions may last for a long time, in some cases throughout life. However, with proper counselling and psychiatric treatment, PTSD can be remedied at least upto a level where the victims can be motivated, and helped to start life afresh. 
  • The poor, women who have lost all their relatives, and orphaned children who are survivors of natural disasters need special treatment and care. 
  • People react with different intensities to natural disasters. In general, the intensity of reaction is affected by: 

a)    The severity of the disaster
b)    The loss incurred (both in terms of property and life)
c)    The individual’s general coping ability
d)    Other stressful experiences before the disaster. For example, people who have experienced stress before may find it more difficult to deal with yet another difficult and stressful situation.

  •  Although we are aware that most natural disasters can be predicted only in a limited way, there are ways of being prepared to minimise their devastating consequences in the form of: 

1.   Warnings
-    On radios, advertisements are broadcasted that mention about what people should do when it is announced that some natural disaster, such as a flood, is likely. 
-    When cyclones or high tides are predicted, fishermen are asked not to venture into the sea.

2.  Safety measures that can be taken immediately after the event 
-    Unfortunately, in the case of some natural disasters such as earthquakes, even if prediction is possible, the events come too suddenly for people to be warned or to be mentally prepared.
-    Therefore, tips are given beforehand about what to do when there is an earthquake.

3.  Treatment of psychological disorders
-    This includes self-help approaches as well as professional treatment. 
-    Following are the steps in the treatment:
i.   Providing material relief in the form of food, clothing, medical help, shelter, and financial help.
ii.  Counselling at the individual and group level. 
This can take many forms, such as encouraging the survivors to talk about their experiences and emotional state, and giving them time for their emotional wounds to heal. 
In PTSD, one of the key attitudes to be developed in the survivors is that of self-efficacy, i.e. the belief that ‘I can do it!’, or ‘I can come out of this phase successfully.’ 
iii.  Psychiatric help may be needed for those showing extreme stress reactions. 
iv.  Rehabilitation in the form of employment and a gradual return to the normal routine should be undertaken. 
v.   Follow-up of the victims and survivors is also needed in order to ensure that they have, indeed, recovered sufficiently from their traumatic experience.

Promoting Pro-environmental Behaviour

Promoting Pro-environmental Behaviour

  • Pro-environmental behaviour includes both actions that are meant to protect the environment from problems, and to promote a healthy environment. 
  • Some promotive actions to protect the environment from pollution are: 

Psychology and Social Concerns

Psychology and Social Concerns
Poverty and Discrimination

  • In economic terms, poverty is measured in terms of income, nutrition (the daily calorie intake per person), and the amount spent on basic necessities of life such as food, clothing and shelter, physical health and literacy. 
  • In socio-psychological terms, poverty is a condition in which there is a lack of necessities of life in the context of unequal distribution of wealth in society. 
  • Following are the additional features of poverty:

1. Deprivation
•  It refers to the state in which a person feels that s/he has lost something valuable, and is not getting something what s/he deserves. 
•  On the other hand, poverty refers to an actual shortage of the resources necessary for living, and thus can be somewhat objectively defined. 
•  In deprivation, it is more a question of perceiving or thinking that one has got less than what one should have got. 

•  Thus, a poor person may experience deprivation, but poverty is not a necessary condition for experiencing deprivation. 
•  The situation of the poor is worsened if they also experience deprivation. In reality, usually the poor also feel deprived. 

2. Social disadvantage 
•  Both poverty and deprivation are linked to social disadvantage.
•  It is a condition because of which some sections of society are not allowed to enjoy the same privileges as the rest of society. 
•  Social disadvantage poses an obstacle to the growth of these sections. 
•  In our society, the caste system has been largely the source of social disadvantage, but poverty, irrespective of caste, has also played a role in creating social disadvantage. 


  • Social disadvantage because of caste and poverty has created the problem of discrimination. 
  • In the context of poverty, discrimination refers to the behaviour that makes a distinction between the rich and the poor, favouring the rich and the advantaged over the poor and the disadvantaged.
  • This distinction can be seen in matters of: 
  1. social interaction
  2. education
  3. employment
  • Thus, even if the poor or disadvantaged have the capability, they are kept away from opportunities that are enjoyed by the rest of society. 
  • The children of the poor do not get a chance to study in good schools, or get good health facilities, and employment. 
  • Social disadvantage and discrimination prevent the poor from improving their socio-economic condition through their own efforts, and this makes the poor even poorer. 

Poverty and discrimination are related in such a way that discrimination becomes both a cause and a consequence of poverty. 
Discrimination based on poverty or caste is socially unjust, and has to be removed. 

Psychological Characteristics and Effects of Poverty and Deprivation 
1. Motivation
•  In terms of motivation, the poor have: 
a) low aspirations 
b) low achievement motivation
c) high need for dependence
•  They explain their successes in terms of luck or fate rather than ability or hard work. 
•  They believe that events in their lives are controlled by factors outside them, rather than within them. 

2. Personality
•  With regard to personality, the poor and deprived: 
a) have low self-esteem
b) are high on anxiety and introversion
c) dwell on the immediate present rather than being future-oriented
•   They prefer smaller immediate rewards to larger rewards in the long run, because in their perception, the future is too uncertain. 
•   They live with a sense of hopelessness, powerlessness, felt injustice, and experience a loss of identity. 

3. Social behaviour
•  The poor and deprived sections exhibit an attitude of resentment towards the rest of society. 

4. Cognitive functioning
•  Intellectual functioning and performance on tasks (such as classification, verbal reasoning, time perception, and pictorial depth perception) is lower among the highly deprived compared to those who are less deprived. 
•   The effect of deprivation is because the nature of the environment in which children grow up — whether it is enriched or impoverished — makes a difference in their cognitive development, and this is reflected in cognitive task performance. 

5. Mental health
•  With regard to mental health, there is an unquestionable relationship between mental disorders and poverty or deprivation. 
•  The poor are more likely to suffer from specific mental illnesses compared to the rich, possibly due to: 
a)  constant worriness about basic necessities
b)  feelings of insecurity
c)  inability to get medical facilities, especially for mental illnesses
•   Depression may be a mental disorder largely of the poor. 
•   The poor experience a sense of hopelessness and a loss of identity, as though they do not belong to society. As a result, they also suffer from emotional and adjustment problems. 

Major Causes of Poverty 
1. Natural disasters such as earthquakes, floods, and cyclones, or man-made disasters such as poisonous gas leaks, sometimes cause poverty. When such events take place, people suddenly lose all their possessions and have to face poverty. 

2. One generation of the poor may be unable to eradicate their poverty, and the next generation continues to remain in poverty. 

3. The poor themselves are responsible for their poverty. 
According to this view, the poor lack the ability and motivation to put in effort, and make use of available opportunities. In general, such a view about the poor is rather negative, and does not help at all in making them better. 

4. It is not the individual, but a belief system, a way of life, and values, in which she/he is brought up, that is the cause of poverty. 
This belief system, called the ‘culture of poverty’, convinces the person that she/he will continue to remain poor, and the belief is carried over from one generation of the poor to the next.

5. Economic, social and political factors together account for poverty. 
Because of discrimination, certain sections of society are denied the opportunities needed for getting even the basic necessities of life. 
The economic system is made to grow in a disproportionate way, through social and political exploitation, so that the poor are left out of the race. 
All these factors can be summed up in the idea of social disadvantage, because of which the poor experience social injustice, deprivation, discrimination, and exclusion. 
6. The geographic region in which one lives is said to be a significant cause of poverty. For example, people living in regions (such as deserts) that have a shortage of natural resources and a harsh climate (such as extreme heat or cold) end up being poor. 
This factor cannot be controlled by human beings. However, attempts can be made to help people in such regions: 
-    to find alternative means of livelihood
-    to provide special facilities for their education and employment

7. The poverty cycle is another important cause of poverty that explains why poverty tends to continue among the same sections of society. 
‘Poverty begets poverty’: 
Beginning with a low income and lack of resources, the poor go through low health and nutrition, lack of education, and lack of skills. This leads to low employment opportunities, which, in turn, continue their low income condition, and low health and nutrition status. 
The resulting lowered motivational level only makes the situation worse; the cycle starts and continues again. Thus, the poverty cycle involves an interaction between the factors mentioned above, and results in declining individual motivation, hope, and sense of control. 

Measures for Poverty Alleviation
1. Breaking the poverty cycle, and helping the poor to attain self-sufficiency 
Initially, financial relief, medical and other facilities may have to be provided to the poor. 
Care should be taken to see that this financial and other help does not make the poor dependent on these sources for their livelihood. 

2. Creating a context for making the poor take responsibility instead of blame for their poverty 
This step will help them to regain a sense of hope, control and identity. 

3. Providing educational and employment opportunities, following the principles of social justice
This step may help the poor to discover their own abilities and skills, thus enabling them to come up to the level of other sections of society. 
This will also help in reducing crime and violence by reducing frustration, and by encouraging the poor to earn their livelihood through legal rather than illegal means. 

4. Measures for improved mental health 
Many of the poverty reduction measures help to improve the physical health of the poor, but their mental health still remains a problem to be tackled effectively. 
With greater awareness of this problem, it is hoped that more attention will be paid to this aspect of poverty. 

5. Steps for empowering the poor 
Through the measures mentioned above, the poor should be made more powerful, capable of living independently and with dignity, without depending on the help given by the government or other groups. 

6. The concept of ‘Antyodaya’, or the rise of the ‘last person’ in society, i.e. the poorest or the most disadvantaged, has helped a large section of the poor to get uplifted to a better economic condition than they have experienced earlier. 
Under Antyodaya programmes, there is provision for: 
a)  health facilities
b)  nutrition
c)  education 
d)  training for employment — all the areas in which the poor need help

In addition, the poor are encouraged to start their own small-scale businesses. Initial capital for these ventures is provided through small loans or micro-credit facilities. 
Many of these programmes are more active in rural than in urban regions, as the rural poor have even fewer facilities than the urban poor. 

7.  Following the 73rd amendment of the Constitution, the aim is to give more power to people for their development through decentralised planning, and through people’s participation.
ActionAid, an international group dedicated to the cause of the poor, has goals of: 
a)  making the poor more sensitive to their rights, to equality and justice
b)  ensuring for them adequate nutrition, health, and facilities for education and employment 
The Indian branch of this organisation has been working for poverty alleviation in our country. 

Aggression, Violence, and Peace

  • ‘Aggression’ refers to any behaviour by one person/ persons that is intended to cause harm to another person/persons. 

It can be demonstrated in actual action or through the use of harsh words or criticism, or even hostile feelings against others.

  • Violence refers to forceful destructive behaviour towards another person or object.
  • Difference between Aggression and Violence:

Aggressive behaviour involves the intention to harm or injure another person, whereas violence may or may not involve such an intention. 

  • Difference between Instrumental and Hostile Aggression:

In instrumental aggression, the act of aggression is meant to obtain a certain goal or object. 
Hostile aggression is that which is shown as an expression of anger towards the target, with the intention of harming her/ him, even if the aggressor does not wish to obtain anything from the victim. 

Causes of Aggression 
1.  Inborn tendency
•    Aggressiveness is an inborn tendency among human beings (as it is in animals). 
•    Biologically, this inborn tendency may be meant for self-defence. 

2.  Physiological mechanisms
•    Aggression could also be indirectly triggered by physiological mechanisms, especially by the activation of certain parts of the brain that play a role in emotional experience. 
•    A general physiological state of arousal, or feeling activated, might often be expressed in the form of aggression. 
•    There could be several factors that cause arousal. For example, aggression can result from a sense of crowding, especially in hot and humid weather. 

3.  Child-rearing 
•    The way an individual is brought up often influences her/his aggressiveness. 
•    For example, 
Children whose parents use physical punishment end up becoming more aggressive than children whose parents use other disciplinary techniques. This could be because the parent has set an example of aggressive behaviour, which the child imitates. It could also be because physical punishment makes the child angry and resentful; as the child grows up, s/he expresses this anger through aggressive behaviour. 
4.  Frustration 
•    Aggression is an expression, and consequence of frustration, i.e. an emotional state that arises when a person is prevented from reaching a goal, or attaining an object that s/he wants. 
•    The person may be very close to the goal, and yet does not attain it. 
•    People in frustrated situations show more aggression than those who are not frustrated. 
•    An American psychologist, John Dollard along with his collaborators, conducted research specifically to examine the frustration-aggression theory. 
•    This theory proposes that it is frustration that leads to aggression. 
•    Frustrated persons did demonstrate more aggression than non-frustrated persons. 
•    Moreover, such aggression was often shown towards a weaker person who was unlikely, or unable, to react to the aggression. This phenomenon has been called displacement. 
•    Members of a majority group in society may be prejudiced against members of a minority group, and may show aggressive behaviour towards a minority group member, such as using abusive language, or even physically assaulting the minority group member. 
•    This may be a case of displaced aggression arising out of frustration. 
•    However, frustration is not the only, or even a major cause of aggression, as being frustrated does not necessarily make a person aggressive. 

Situational factors that may lead to Aggression:
1.  Learning 
•    Among human beings, aggression is largely the result of learning rather than an expression of an inborn tendency. 
•    Learning of aggression can take place in more than one mode: 
a)    Individuals may exhibit aggression because they have found it rewarding (for example, hostile aggression allows the aggressive person to get what s/he wants). This would be a case of learning through direct reinforcement. 
b)    Individuals also learn to be aggressive by observing others showing aggression. This is a case of learning through modelling. 

2.  Observing an aggressive model 
•    Psychologists such as Albert Bandura and his collaborators show the role of modelling in learning aggression, in their research studies. 
•    If a child observes aggression and violence on television, s/he may start imitating that behaviour. Without doubt violence and aggression shown on television and the film media have a powerful influence on the viewers, especially the children. 

3.  Anger-provoking action by others 
•    If a person watches a movie that shows violence, and is then made to feel angry (for example, through insults or threats, physical aggression, or dishonesty) by another person, s/he may be more likely to show aggression than if s/he is not made to feel angry. 
•    In studies that tested the frustration-aggression theory, provoking the person and making her/him angry was one way of inducing frustration. 

4.  Availability of weapons of aggression 
•    Observing violence leads to a greater likelihood of aggression on the part of the observer only if weapons of aggression like a stick, pistol or knife are easily available. 

5.  Personality factors 
•    Some people seem to be ‘naturally’ more hot-tempered, and show more aggression than others. Aggressiveness is thus a personal quality. 
•    People who have very low self-esteem and feel insecure may behave aggressively in order to ‘boost their ego’. 
•    Likewise, people who have very high self-esteem may also show aggression, because they feel that others do not place them at the high ‘level’ at which they have placed themselves. 
6.  Cultural factors 
•    The culture in which one grows up can teach its members to be aggressive or not by encouraging and praising aggressive behaviour, or discouraging and criticising such behaviour. 
•    Some tribal communities are traditionally peace-loving, whereas others see aggression as necessary for survival. 

Strategies to Reduce Aggression and Violence 
The learning of aggression can be curtailed by creating the appropriate attitude towards the general problem of growing aggression.


  • Various health outcomes are not only a function of disease but the way we think and behave.
  • Definition of ‘health’ provided by the World Health Organisation (WHO), includes biological, psychological and social aspects of health. 
  • It focuses not only on physical but also on mental and spiritual aspects of health. 
  • Health and illness are a matter of degree. 
  • One may be suffering from a physically disabling disease but may be quite healthy otherwise.
  • People differ across cultures in their thinking about when and how people fall ill and, therefore, in the models which they use in prevention of diseases and promotion of health. 

For example,
-    There are traditional cultures like Chinese, Indian, and Latin American which hold that good health results from the harmonious balance of various elements in the body, and ill-health results when such a balance is lost. 
-    On the contrary, the Western cultures view health as a result of fully functioning machine which has no blockage. 

  • The different systems of medicine developed in different cultures are based on these models.
  • In developing countries such as in Asia, Africa, and Latin America, more people die due to communicable diseases including HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis (TB), malaria, respiratory infections, and nutritional deficiencies. 

In the developed countries, the leading causes are various cardiovascular diseases, cancers, and psychiatric disorders. 
These differences are in terms of how these societies are economically and socially structured and their psychological underpinnings. 

  • At the individual level, following factors are associated with physical well-being or illness: 

1. Cognitions
•   Some people are quick to seek doctor’s help while others do not if they are suffering from such symptoms as nausea, cold, diarrhoea, smallpox, etc. 
•   The variations in seeking help are due to differences in mental representations people make relating to disease, its severity and the causes of disease. 
•   One may not seek doctor’s help for a cold if one attributes it to eating curd or for leprosy or smallpox if these are attributed to God’s annoyance. 
•   Following factors affect help-seeking behaviour as well as sticking to a doctor’s regimen:
i.  The level of awareness or information about disease
ii.  Beliefs about how it is caused
iii. Beliefs about possible ways of relieving the distress or improving health 
iv. The perception of pain, which is a function of personality, anxiety and social norms

2. Behaviour 
•   Behaviours we engage in and our lifestyles greatly influence health. 
•   People differ greatly in terms of such behavioural risk factors as: 
i.  Smoking or tobacco use
ii. Alcohol and drug abuse
iii. Unsafe sexual behaviour
iv. Diet 
v.  Physical exercise
•   Such behaviours are associated with incidence of coronary heart disease (CHD), cancer, and HIV/AIDS besides many other diseases. 
•   A new discipline called Behaviour Medicine has emerged, which seeks to alleviate stress due to diseases through modification in behaviour. 
3. Social and cultural factors 
•   Social and cultural differences may influence our physiological responses, and may not be the same across all cultures. 
For instance, the relationship between hostility and anger and CHD is not found to be the same in all cultures, (e.g., in India and China). 
•   Social and cultural norms associated with roles, and gender, etc. greatly influence our health behaviour. 
For example, in Indian society, medical advice by or for a female is often delayed because of various reasons:
i.  they are less valued
ii. the belief that they are hardy
iii. the shame associated with the disease

Impact of Television on Behaviour
1. Television is attractive.

2. Television watching may have an effect on children’s (a) ability to concentrate on one target, (b) creativity, (c) ability to understand, and (d) social interactions. 

3. Television viewing on aggressiveness and violence among the viewers, especially children. 

4. Televison has developed a consumerist attitude.

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