Critically consider the impact of 3 environmental factors on anti-social behaviour

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Anti-social Behaviour can be provoked by a range of different factors. Many of these are triggered through human actions ,but some can be caused by non human actions such as environmental factors. Environmental factors which can influence anti-social behaviour include ;- overcrowding, temperature and noise.

Donnerstein and Wilson investigated the effects of noise on aggression in 1976. In their experiment they asked male participants to write an essay. A confederate then rated the essay in one of two conditions. The first was favourably (this was the non angered condition) and negatively ( the angered condition ) The participants were then given the chance to change roles and become the teacher.

In this role the participants evaluated the confederates essay through administering electric shocks. When the participants were administering the electric shocks they wore head phones which gave out either 65db of either low intensity noise or 95db or high intensity noise. The results showed that participants who were placed in the angered condition were more likely to give more and longer electric shocks if they had heard the high intensity noise at 95db. The participants in the non angered condition were mostly unaffected by the noise. Suggesting that noise can arouse anti-social behaviour when people are provoked and have no control over the stressor (in this case noise).

Geen (1969) found that noise increases aggressiveness. Geen conducted a study into levels of aggression after watching films. In his study there were 3 variables.

1. Participants watched either an aggressive film or a non aggressive film.

2. Participants were then given the opportunity to shock someone in another room.

3. When deciding whether to shock the other person, some subjects were exposed to loud noises and others to no noise.

The results showed that the participants were more likely to shock the other person when they were in a noisy environment.

Cohen in 1977 found that noise elicits the fight or flight response , this is activated by noise through the auditory system and can result in aggressive behaviour being produced. Rehm in 1983 reviewed 14 field studies ,which were mostly of occupational noise exposure. Rehm reported that the majority showed significant increases in either systolic or diastolic blood pressure or both. Suggesting that noise aggravates the bodies stress response system and this may in turn result in anti-social behaviour.

Altman (1975) put forward the idea of privacy regulation. Which is a process where a person or a group decides to make him or herself more or less accessible and open to others. Altman put forward 4 zones in which people of different levels of relationship usually communicate with others, the first was intimate distance up to 0.5m , personal distance 0.5 to 1.25m, social distance 1.25 to 4m and public distance 4 – 8 m. People generally observe these four zones when communicating in everyday life, however, when one of these boundaries is flouted ,for example the personal space or intimate space zone then anti-social behaviours may occur as the person will feel that someone is invading their personal body space.

Stokol et al studied same sex groups of eight people in either a large or small room .The males were then asked to rate themselves in terms of aggressiveness. Stokol found that males rated themselves as more aggressive in the small room than in the larger room. However, females rated themselves as feeling less aggressive in the smaller room. This study does not explain the difference in level of aggression between males and females. Schettino and Borden (1975) conducted a study where they used a ratio of people in a classroom to the total number of seats available as a measure of density. Schettino and Borden found that males reported feelings of aggression as density increased whereas the opposite was reported for females.

Cave (1998) found that there is a high correlation between density and violence in prisons. Cox (1984) reported that when there was a 30 per cent reduction in the prison population the was a 60 per cent reduction in assaults on other inmates, this was especially reported in male prisons. However, there is little evidence to suggest a correlation between urban density and crime, or between crowding and the incidence of violent crimes. Freedman et al (1972) conducted a laboratory experiment. He found that crowding increased aggression in all male groups, but in the female groups the opposite was true. In mixed groups the results showed no significant effects of crowding. The results from the above crowding experiments suggest that there are marked gender differences in response to crowding and suggest that men generally respond more aggressively to crowd behaviour than women.

Research into temperature and aggression has been investigated in both the laboratory and the natural environment. Research in the natural environment by Anderson ( 1989 ) reported a general trend which suggested that hotter regions in the world there tends to be more aggression than in cooler regions. When there are periods of hotter weather there also tends to be higher levels of violent crime. Kenrick and MacFarlane (1986) found that drivers beep their horns more at traffic lights when there is a hold-up when the weather is uncomfortably hot. Research in the laboratory have found results which are slightly different. Halpern (1995) found that after reviewing studies into temperature and aggression he found that there was a possible “inverted-U” relationship between heat aggression. Meaning that as temperatures rises so does aggression, but only to a certain point.

After this point aggression appears to decrease. One possible explanation for this is that after a certain point people want to escape the extremes of the heat rather than stay and aggress against a person. Research by Lombroso (1911) found higher murder rates in southern Italy than in northern Italy and Brearley ( 1932) found similar results of higher murder rates in the southern U.S Lombroso and Brearley were trying to suggest that temperatures are hotter in the South of both America and Italy and were trying to infer that this temperature change produced higher levels of aggression. However, it can be argued that other factors could have influenced the higher murder rates in the south of both of these countries. One possible explanation is in the south of Italy at this time there was a large presence of the mafia which was unrelated to temperature.

Environmental factors do play a part in the role of anti-social behaviour but only to some extent. In the noise experiments by Donnerstein ad Wilson and Geen it was reported that people aggressed only if they were previously annoyed or antagonised, so noise alone cannot be cited as the sole cause for anti-social behavour. In the crowding experiments reductions in the population of prisons dramatically reduced violence among males, however, it could be argued that the prison population would be more likely to aggress anyway because of their previous background and social circles. In the temperature studies research suggested that people became more aggressive up to a point but after it got to a certain temperature aggression decreased.

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