The Psychology of Group Aggression

The Psychology of Group Aggression

The Psychology of Group Aggression

The Psychology of Group Aggression


People in groups act aggressively as a group, not as a collection of individuals. The Psychology of Group Aggression's comprehensive journey starts with group dynamics theory and research by reviewing its relationship to aggression. Arnold P. Goldstein then provides a unique and valuable insight into the different types and levels of intensity of anti-social behavior, examines its causes and considers its costs. In separate chapters he considers low intensity aggression, including ostracism, hazing, teasing; mid-intensity, e.g. bullying, harassment; and high intensity aggression e.g. mobs and gangs. In a final section, he considers management and intervention techniques, both those widely employed and emerging methods. An important work for both a pure and an applied audience, this will be a key reference for many, including clinical and forensic psychologists, psychiatrists, criminal justice workers, social psychologists and academics and students in criminology, psychology and sociology. Published in the Wiley Series in Forensic Clinical Psychology Series Editors: Professor Clive Hollin, University of Leicester, UK and Dr Mary McMurran, Cardiff University, UK


Human history, written with a gloomy but accurate pen, is a litany of groups of persons seeking to hurt other such groups. Such efforts at, often successful, bodily and psychological injury go by many terms—rumor-mongering, group bullying, gang rape, mob aggression, feuds, riots, rebellions, insurrections, mass murder, war, genocide. Perhaps no human quality has been more evident, more damaging, and more enduring.

A wide array of professions center their efforts and energies on seeking better understanding of group aggression in its many incarnations, and in attempting to devise and implement means for its prevention, moderation, or control. Psychology is among these professions, and the present book seeks to present and examine its contribution in this context. I claim no primacy for what psychology has to offer. Instead, I seek to place its efforts alongside those of sociology, political science, criminology, and other relevant disciplines. The problem is uniquely immense. All contributions are welcome.

I begin by reflecting the fact that group aggression is typically a group phenomenon, not merely a behavior emanating from a random collective of separate individuals. As such, this book's journey begins with a detailed presentation of theory and research on those dimensions of group life that bear apparent or even probable relevance to the domain of aggression. How and why groups form, their goals, leadership, cohesiveness, conflict, norms, power structure, communication patterns, and, especially, relations with other groups, are among the topics considered. These and other arenas of group organization and functioning are offered in Chapter 1 as a template for informed consideration, in the chapters that follow, of the various major forms group aggression has taken.

Using this group dynamics template, I invite readers to join me in seeking to understand more fully the causes, nature, and modification of low-level group aggression (Chapter 2), bullying and harassment (Chapter 3), gang violence (Chapter 4), mob aggression (Chapter 5), and both established and emerging means for intervening effectively in this domain (Chapter 6).

Psychology's contribution to understanding and moderating group aggression is both modest (given the enormity of the problem), and yet significant as but one large piece in a multicomponent intervention effort. I explore this contribution here toward the dual goals of the continued expansion of its substance and continued application of its fruits.

October, 2001 . . .

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