This, on Tuesday, April 06, 2004 from James Benjamin, Assistant Professor of Psychology in the Department of Behavioral and Social
Science at Oklahoma Panhandle State University. Yes, a minor school in an odd
state, but a state where it does get very hot in the summer, and where Terry Nichols and friends blew up a federal building
a few years ago. Perhaps this fellow knows something.
He says things are going to get worse in Iraq, but for reasons that have little to do with radical
Muslim fanaticism and its underlying assumptions about the nature of how life should be, nor with our theory that everyone
really wants to live in a free-market, secular, capitalist Jeffersonian democracy with a Wal-Mart just down the street…
If you look at contemporary psychological theories of aggression, it
becomes clear in a hurry that numerous antecedent conditions can bring about an aggressive response. In Iraq, we may very well be witness to a confluence of conditions that are responsible for the current
level of violence as well as predict an escalation in the coming months. Let's
examine a couple of those factors:
1. Uncomfortable heat:
is now ample evidence that uncomfortably hot temperatures are causally associated with increases in aggressive behavior. In laboratory studies, individuals who are placed in uncomfortably hot conditions
tend to deliver higher levels of shock or noxious white noise to their presumed victim than do individuals placed in relatively
comfortable room-temperature environments. Lab data also shows a causal link
between uncomfortably hot temperatures and increases in level of anger. Research
on archival data, such as police and FBI records, shows that violent crimes, such as homicides and aggravated assaults, tend
to show an increase during the summer months, and also tend to spike late in the afternoon or into the evening following hot
Think about the time of year.
Spring is an apparently short season in Iraq, and the summers are unbearably hot with high temperatures regularly exceeding
110 degrees Fahrenheit in many locations. There is also no plausible way for
many Iraqis to escape the heat: electricity is still pretty undependable, and for the average Iraqi may be unaffordable. For that reason alone, I might expect to see an increase in unrest.
The earliest model
of aggression was proposed by Dollard and several other colleagues at Yale University during the 1930s: that is, the frustration-aggression
hypothesis. The main thrust of the hypothetical model is that frustration (i.e.,
blocking an individual from attaining a goal) can lead to an aggressive response. One
early application of Dollard and colleagues' frustration-aggression hypothesis was aimed at examining the role of economic
hard times on such behaviors as homicides and various other violent activities, which from their archival research there seemed
to be some support for their hypothesis. Frustration is associated with increases
in various physiological measures such as heart rate, as well as anger, as well as aggressive behavior; indeed there is tons
of laboratory evidence to support the hypothesis, as well as quite a number of creatively executed field experiments.
Think of what the average Iraqi may be facing on a day-to-day basis. Efforts at finding meaningful work may be frustrated for any of a number of reasons,
which means that efforts to provide for one's self and family are frustrated. The
expectation of a regular flow of electricity during the summer months may also be frustrated.
Efforts to move freely to conduct one's business may be frustrated to varying degrees as the occupation continues.
frustration is described by aggression theorists and researchers as one form of a broader category: provocation. Whether frustration really fits there is certainly subject to debate.
When I discuss provocation to my students, I define the term as an action intended to elicit a strong response from
the target of the provoking behavior. Most provocations fall under two categories:
physical assaults and verbal attacks. Again, there is a ton of laboratory evidence
and field research that demonstrates conclusively that there is a causal link between provocation and aggression. One thing to mention is that sometimes behaviors are unwittingly provoking - perception then becomes an
important part of the equation.
Again think about what's going on to
the average Iraqi. The various news reports surely suggest behaviors by coalition
troops as well as various mercenaries that would fit the definition of provocation.
Other acts may end up seeming provoking simply because to provocateur failed to understand the cultural norms governing
acceptable behavior among the natives. Again, perception is of critical importance.
It is likely that what we are now seeing is a particularly volatile combination
of these three factors (and probably others). For those of us who are pessimistic
about the near future of Iraq under occupation, basic social science research on aggressive and violent behavior is unlikely
to give us any cause for changing our tune. For the optimists, perhaps they would
do well to reconsider their optimism in light of available theory and data.
Yes, this does not bode well. We should send over massive shipments of chilled Diet Coke (no sugar to get anyone all hyped up) or ice-cold
Diet Pepsi (“The Pause That Refreshes”).
But it seems no
one is going to chill-out now. Perhaps it’s too late for soda.
Ah, perhaps the French can send in chilled cases of Vittel, Evian, Badoit, Perrier and Chateldon. And the Italians can send Solé and San Faustino and San Peligrino.
Perhaps we should suggest a halt to all hostilities until late October. Yeah, right.
Ric Erickson in Paris sent
these comments along –
"There is also no plausible way
for many Iraqis to escape the heat: electricity is still pretty undependable, and for the average Iraqi may be unaffordable. For that reason alone, I might expect to see an increase in unrest."
RIC IN PARIS: Hasn't it been getting hot in Iraq for about 58,675 years, every year, even before there was any electricity?
"The expectation of a regular flow
of electricity during the summer months may also be frustrated. Efforts to move
freely to conduct one's business may be frustrated to varying degrees as the occupation continues."
RIC IN PARIS: Could be. Maybe frustration was suppressed because Saddam
was more ruthless than Rumsfeld.
"Other acts may end up seeming
provoking simply because to provocateur failed to understand the cultural norms governing acceptable behavior among the natives. Again, perception is of critical importance."
RIC IN PARIS: A mere attack on the country and occupation by infidels isn't provocation?
"It is likely that what we are
now seeing is a particularly volatile combination of these three factors [....] "
RIC IN PARIS: Wow. Is this
what we're really seeing? It looks more like Vietnam in the Middle East to me. Next week we're going to hearing about changing 'hearts and minds.' For this, the USA should get ready to send some of those fundamentalist Christians over there, wearing
white tunics with red crosses on them and Toledo steel in their fists. No, wait! Send Mel Gibson instead.
THAT’S an IDEA!
it’s not just Ric and Ted Kennedy with the Vietnam comparisons –
See Fallouja, c'est comme Hué au Vietnam
mardi, les Irakiens harcèlent les marines dans de violents combats de rue.
09 avril 2004 (Libération - 06:00) Fallouja envoyé spécial de l'AFP
know. The French know.