Is aggression useful?

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Is aggression useful?

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What makes us angry and why is aggression useful? Neil and Catherine discuss human behaviour.

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Neil Hello and welcome to 6 Minute English. I’m Neil…

Catherine … and I’m Catherine. Hello.

Neil Hello, Catherine! I want to know, what sort of things make you feel angry?

Catherine Many things make me feel angry, Neil. But one thing that makes me regularly angry is when people put the wrong rubbish in the wrong bins.

Neil Yes, that makes me angry too.

Catherine Does it?

Neil It’s not very thoughtful, is it?

Catherine Not really, no.

Neil So, you may feel angry about people putting rubbish in the wrong bin but do you get aggressive? That’s behaving in an angry way, looking like you want to argue or even fight with someone?

Catherine No. I don’t really get aggressive about wheelie bins, to be honest.

Neil Well I tend to control my anger too and keep calm but I have been known to react - especially if someone is damaging some of my property.

Catherine Wow. Really?

Neil Yeah. I can’t stand it. It comes out of the blue - it’s completely unexpected. But I’m glad to say I feel quite calm today.

Catherine I’m glad to hear it, Neil. But today we are talking about aggression and we’ll look at what we can learn about human aggression by some examples from the animal kingdom.

Neil That’s right. Now, are you ready to answer today’s quiz question, Catherine?

Catherine In a very calm and non-aggressive way, I would like you to give me the question.

Neil When attacked, what does a baboon typically do to show aggression? Does it… a) beat its chest b) yawn and show its teeth or c) laugh and roll on the ground

Catherine Well… I’d love to think of an angry baboon laughing and rolling on the ground. But I’m going to go for b) yawn and show its teeth.

Neil OK. Well, we’ll see if you right or wrong a bit later on. Now, Catherine, how do you usually act when you’re angry or upset about something?

Catherine I generally let people know how I feel to be honest. I don’t go over the top and hit people, but also I don’t sulk about things. And sulk means when you refuse to smile or speak because you want to let people know you are upset about something.

Neil Sulking is quite childish, isn’t it Catherine?

Catherine It is. Are you a sulker, Neil?

Neil I don’t sulk, I don’t think. But as I said I don’t often get angry. I’m a very well balanced and grounded person, Catherine.

Catherine Really, very good. I’m pleased to hear it, Neil. Anyway, well balanced means sensible and in control of your emotions. And grounded means mentally and emotionally stable. Is that what you’re saying, Neil?

Neil Yes, that’s me. But let’s listen to Professor Simon Underdown talking about human behaviour. Can you spot a phrase that means ‘the opposite side to an idea’?E INSERT

Simon Underdown, Principal Lecturer in Human evolution at Oxford Brookes University One of the things humans are incredibly good at doing is being psychologists. We’e very good at reading situations that we find ourselves in […] We’re extremely good at picking up on signals. What we can then do is trigger the appropriate response. If it’s an empathetic response we may well need to then be sympathetic, we maybe need to show our sort of fluffy side if you want. But on the flipside from an evolutionary point of view the reason we are so successful and we’re still here is because we can, and when we need to, react aggressively to situations.

Neil Did you spot the phrase? Flipside means the opposite side to an idea. And being aggressive is the flipside of being fluffy and sympathetic.

Catherine Fluffy, by the way, is an adjective we often use to describe soft animal fur or feathers on young animals or soft toys for children. But here fluffy means behaviour that is soft and unthreatening so it ‘s the opposite of aggressive.

Neil And if you are empathetic you are able to share or understand another person’s feelings. That sounds like me! I’m an excellent empathizer, aren’t I, Catherine?

Catherine Neil, you are absolutely totally full of … empathy.

Neil Nice pause.

Catherine Thank you.

Neil Now, Simon also talks about humans being good at reading situations. What does that mean, Catherine?

Catherine It means understanding what’s going on. For example, if a male gorilla is screaming and breaking branches, other gorillas will probably see this as a show of aggression.

Neil The male gorilla screams and breaks branches, signalling to the other gorillas that he’s angry or upset. Signal here means a noise or a movement that gives someone information.

Catherine And the male gorilla’s signal triggers a response from the other gorillas. This means one thing causes another thing to happen.

Neil And when a man suddenly punches another man in the face, what signal does that send?

Catherine Well, I think for me that would be a signal to leave!

Neil Yes. Quickly.

Catherine Yes, indeed. And humans usually give signals just like the gorillas do, before they start a fight. So people might shout, or gesture with their arms. And a gesture is a movement made with arms or head to give someone else information. Now then, Neil. Let’s have our quiz question answer please.

Neil OK, OK, stop waving your arms around. So I asked: When attacked, what does a baboon typically do to show aggression? Does it…a) beat its chest? b) yawn and show its teeth? or c) laugh and roll on the ground?

Catherine And I said b).

Neil That’s right. Well done! Now let’s hear today’s words once again.

Catherine They are:

out of the blue aggressive sulk well balanced grounded flipside fluffy empathetic reading situations signal triggers a response gesture

Neil Well, that’s the end of today’s 6 Minute English. Check out more programmes at Join us again soon.

Both Bye.

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