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Anger And Aggression In Animals And Humans: Shots



 People get angry. But what about animals? Scientists find similarities in animal and human behavior and biology.
 People get angry. But what about animals? </p>

<p> On the scene, he often looks ready for a fight. He leans forward. He shouts. </p>
<p> This is a scientist, Black looks like a belligerent dog, or an irritated gerbil </p>
<p> "Practically every sexual reproduction, multicellular animal shows aggressive behavior, "says David Anderson, and professor of biology at Caltech and co-author of the book <em> The Neuroscience of Emotion </em> <em> </em>" Fruit Flies Show Aggression. "</p><div><script async src=

When I Relay That Last Bit to Black , he's skeptical. "Really?" he says. "Come on."

But Anderson, whose lab studies fruit flies, says the evidence is compelling

"They fight over females, they fight over food, they threaten each other, they put their wings up in the air , they charge each other, "he says.

But does aggressive behavior mean a fruit fly gets angry the way Black does? Anderson says it depends on how you define the term

"We use anger subjectively to refer to our experience, our conscious experience, of rage, the feeling that you are about to explode, the feeling of irritation," he says.

Black feels that way a lot.

"My anger comes from a collection of things that occur during the course of a day that builds up," he says. "What anger is good for, too, is to generate energy to move on, to figure out how to do it, "comedian and anger artist Lewis Black says. "You get angry and go, what do we do?"
                
                
                    
                    Michael S. Schwartz / WireImage / Getty Images
                    
                

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"What anger is good for, too, is to generate energy to move on, to figure out how to do something," comedian and anger artist Lewis Black says. "You get angry and go, what do we do?"

Michael S. Schwartz / WireImage / Getty Images
            
        

What kinds of things? During an hourlong conversation, Black offers a sampler: "Idiotic debates that go to Congress, your health care provider, your cable provider, chemicals that we allow to be dumped, the sensitivity training, the president, the Iraq War, exercise."

Animals presumably have other triggers. And, of course, there is no way to know for sure how an animal is feeling

So Anderson and other scientists focus on animal behavior and on biological changes like heart rate, hormone levels and brain activity. measures, Anderson says, there is strong evidence that animals experience some kind of internal state that drives their aggressive behavior. "I am comfortable calling that state of anger as long as we are clear that we are not [referring] to the subjective feeling," he says.

Research also shows that aggressive behavior is remarkably consistent across species, Anderson says.

For example, both animals and people may take their aggression on innocent bystanders.

Anderson says his cat does it

"It can be staring out the window when a neighborhood cat strolls by," he says . "Its back arches, it's his tail, it's going up and it turns around and attacks my other cat who's been sitting placidly by thinking of her own business."

That kind of behavior suggests animals generalize their anger much way people do, Anderson says. (19659004) For example, it's easy to provoke a state of aggressive arousal in adult male fish by showing it another threatening male, Anderson says. Then, even after the threat has been removed, the adult male will continue to attack the young fish in the tank that he normally ignores. “/>

Generalization and maintenance an angry state is a familiar territory for Black. After a day of banking irritation, he says, he is ready to be onscreen "yelling about something that has nothing to do with my phone service or my cable carrier, my cable provider."

Both Anderson and Black say expressing anger can be

For Black, it's a matter of keeping his internal balance.

"I have the best blood pressure of anybody I know," he says. "And I think it has to do with the fact that I've spent a lot of my life yelling and screaming about things onstage."

There is evidence that expressing anger can reduce levels of stress hormones. On the other hand, there is also evidence that extreme outbursts may trigger a heart attack

But, for Black, anger is a powerful motivator. "What anger is good for, too, is to generate energy to move on, to figure out how to do something," he says. "You get angry and go, what do we do?"

Anger seems to play a similar role in the animal world, Anderson says. For example, an aggressive response can help a creature survive if it's attacked or robbed. "If a squirrel steals and nuts from another squirrel, there's an adaptive value to arousing the squirrel who was the victim of theft and having it chase at the other squirrel and beat him up and try to recover his nut," says Anderson. 19659004] In both animals and people, Anderson says, aggressive behavior tends to be associated with similar physical responses like a racing pulse, higher blood pressure, and elevated levels of hormones such as testosterone.

And he says the similarities in both behavior and biological responses raise a question about brain evolution and aggression. "You look at dogs fighting, you look at fish fighting, you look at flying flies, you look at people fighting," he says. "There is a working theory that because aggression is so common and because it's more than a reflexive response, the inner state that goes with aggression must be it too

If so, that suggests the potential for anger is something we're born with

There is an ongoing debate among scientists about whether that's true. Psychologist Lisa Feldman Barrett of Northeastern University is among the researchers who contend that human emotions, including anger, are "constructed" rather than hard-wired in the brain

But Anderson believes that many behavioral responses and internal states associated with them are inherent and form "the evolutionary underpinnings of emotional behavior."

Marcel Just, a neuroscientist at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh, also thinks there is a strong biological component to anger and other emotions

Just is one of the few scientists who have actually studied anger in human brains. And what he found was surprising. "Everybody's anger feels very personal," he says. "But in fact if you and I were both in an MRI scanner and measured the activation, the pattern would be rather similar."

Just was part of a team that trained a computer to recognize brain activity associated with emotions in people . And a study showed that it was able to identify anger most of the time and to differentiate that emotion from others, like disgust

One way the human brain may be different from an animal's in the circuits used to control emotions, including anger , Just says.

"One of the things we learn from our families, from our parents, from teachers, is how to deal with our various emotions and most especially anger, "

Black has spent much of his life learning how to deal with his anger. And he understands why the emotion has such a bad reputation. "It's where it leads to that's got its rap," he says.

So Black says when he is performing, he often finds himself trying to make sure his audience does not get too angry

And if he finds his flight home has been delayed, he's still calm

"Here's a million dollar tip," he says. "You sit on that anger, and you just empathize with the person whose job it is to deal with you."


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