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November 5, 1973

Human Destructiveness

Author Affiliations

University of Florida College of Medicine Gainesville

JAMA. 1973;226(6):681. doi:10.1001/jama.1973.03230060053032

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Whether human aggression is innate behavior, or whether it is the result of frustration—learned behavior—has been the subject of a major controversy among behavioral scientists, particularly since the development of "The Bomb." Ethologists' comparative studies of the animal kingdom buttress their argument that aggression is innate, a postulate advanced by Freud in his theory of the death instinct. On the other hand, psychologists and a number of anthropologists maintain that there is no evidence for an instinctual cause of aggression, but that it is the result of frustration stemming from childhood experiences. From an almost clinical point of view, investigators are asserting that human aggression is abnormal and that its etiology must be uncovered so that treatment may be instituted that will ensure the survival of the species.

The British psychiatrist, Anthony Storr, summarizes the opposing viewpoints on the nature of human aggression and avers that a psychiatrist's study of