The Organization Of Anger Episodes

Anger is a hierarchically organized pattern of behavior. In the following discussion, we distinguish five levels of organization, three of which can be observed in infrahuman animals, whereas the other two are specific to humans (Fig. 1). In discussing the infrahuman levels, we focus on aggression rather than anger per se for reasons that will become evident. However, as emphasized earlier, human anger need not—and typically does not—involve aggressive behavior.

Using radio-controlled electrodes implanted in the brains of Macaca mulatta monkeys, Jose; Delgado observed the effects of brain stimulation on behavior as the animals roamed freely in their colonies. Stimulation of some brain sites elicited elementary (level I) responses, such as baring the teeth and vocalizations. Stimulation of other sites elicited responses that, although still fragmentary, were more complex and better organized: walking around, circling, climbing, and the like. Such level II responses were sensitive to the environment, but they remained divorced from the remainder of the animal's behavior.

At a still more complex level of organization (level III), one that implicates executive functioning, stimulation could elicit well-coordinated attacks against other members of the colony. However, the occurrence of an attack was not a straightforward response to brain stimulation; rather, it was mediated by past encounters between the stimulated animal and the other members of the colony as indicated, for example, by their relative positions in the troop's dominance hierarchy. When an animal was dominant, stimulation might elicit aggression against subordinate monkeys in the colony. However, if the subordinate monkeys were replaced by more dominant ones, stimulation of the

same animal (and at the same site in the brain) might cause the former aggressor to become the target of aggression by others.

In the particular monkey whose position in the troop's hierarchy was manipulated, the electrode stimulated her right pedunculus cerebellaris medius close to the lateral lemniscus. However, the important detail is not the precise location of the stimulation but that different responses could be elicited depending on the animal's circumstances at the time of stimulation. This exemplifies the point made earlier that a specific mechanism may help mediate angry behavior on one occasion and nonangry behavior on another occasion.

We do not wish to imply that the monkeys studied by Delgado experienced anger, except in a metaphorical sense. As discussed earlier, the concept of anger implies an attribution of blame; and an attribution of blame in turn presumes a network of concepts, for example, of intentionality, right and wrong, and justice and retribution. To the extent that the experience of anger is informed by the concept of anger, a monkey cannot be angry: It can be frustrated and aggressive but not angry.

To differentiate human anger from infrahuman aggression, two additional levels of organization must be considered; namely, the behavior must conform to anger as conceived of by the individual (level IV), and it must be related to the self (level V). To an even greater extent than level III, these distinctly human levels of organization involve executive functions.

Was this article helpful?

0 0
Do Not Panic

Do Not Panic

This guide Don't Panic has tips and additional information on what you should do when you are experiencing an anxiety or panic attack. With so much going on in the world today with taking care of your family, working full time, dealing with office politics and other things, you could experience a serious meltdown. All of these things could at one point cause you to stress out and snap.

Get My Free Ebook

Post a comment