Sunday, February 24, 2008


Among the classic psychological theories of aggression is the Frustration-Aggression Theory of Dollard, Miller, and colleagues from 1939. The theory has been debated and reformulated over the years, and still remains well-known in the field. As van der Dennen summarizes in this web document:

As to the principal hypothesis, Dollard et al. (1939) posited “that the occurrence of aggressive behavior always presupposes the existence of frustration and, contrariwise, that the existence of frustration always leads to some form of aggression”.

It is the seemingly automatic association between frustration and aggression (note the uses of the word "always" in the quote above), posited in the theory's original version, which I seized upon in stating that the theory may have been "a little extreme."


Lyrics by Alan Reifman
(May be sung to the tune of “Winchester Cathedral,” Geoff Stephens, popularized by The New Vaudeville Band)

A theoretical scheme,
The critics would say that,
It’s a little extreme,

It says all frustration,
Makes someone get clocked,
And all aggressiveness,
Stems from goals being blocked,

For 70 years, scholars have, refined the theory,
What moderates the, F-A link?
We can continue on this query…


Further Reading

Berkowitz, L. (1989). The frustration-aggression hypothesis: Examination and reformulation. Psychological Bulletin, 106, 59-73.

Dollard, J., Miller, N., Doob, L., Mowrer, O., & Sears, R. (1939). Frustration and aggression. New Haven: Yale University Press.