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Rosen, V.H. (1963). The Psychology of Aggression: By Arnold H. Buss. New York: John Wiley & Sons, Inc., 1961. 307 pp.. Psychoanal Q., 32:106-108.

(1963). Psychoanalytic Quarterly, 32:106-108

The Psychology of Aggression: By Arnold H. Buss. New York: John Wiley & Sons, Inc., 1961. 307 pp.

Review by:
Victor H. Rosen

This book is largely a review of various approaches by psychologists to the problem of aggression. The author does not attempt any original contributions, but he does take a theoretical stand and attempts a synthesis of certain ideas.

The first part of the book deals with definitions of aggression and related phenomena in behavioral terms and carefully defines the author's behaviorist orientation. On the part of the reader this requires a mastery of a special vocabulary, as difficult in its own way as a technical vocabulary in a remotely familiar scientific discipline. The reader must become fluent, for example, with such concepts as 'instrumental responses', 're-enforcers', and 'consummatory responses', as well as a classification of 'aversive stimuli' and such notions as 'stimulus generalization' and 'response generalization'. These terms are indispensable to any comprehension of the laboratory investigation of aggression and its physiological substrate. Part two deals with projective and other testing techniques for the study of aggression in the individual. It also summarizes personality theories of aggression and discusses aggression in psychopathology and psychosomatic disorders from a behaviorist point of view. Part three is concerned with prejudice, some sociological problems of aggression, and aggression in children.

Professor Buss seems to have done a scholarly job within the limitations of his approach. Where he compactly abstracts psychoanalytic theories of aggression he does so objectively and without the polemical excursions often so tempting to the representative of a 'school of thought' when discussing the ideas of another 'school', especially in the field of psychology.

It is interesting to follow the development of concepts that are built upon the fundamental behaviorist premise that 'intent' must be excluded from the phenomenology of aggression in order to deal with its problems in 'scientific' terms. 'In summary', the author states, 'intent is both awkward and unnecessary in the analysis of aggressive behavior; rather the crucial issue is the nature of the re-enforcing consequences that affect the occurrence and strength of aggressive responses.

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