length ratio in males has been found to be related to certain psychological test
scores, especially physical aggression. That relationship between the second and
fourth fingers, reflecting early prenatal conditions, is believed to be an even better
predictor of physical aggression than a males current adult level of testosterone. The
finger ratio, however, did not predict anger, hostility, or verbal aggression, only
physical aggression. Likewise, finger length ratio in women does not correlate with
any of these anger measures (Bailey & Hurd, 2005). Please note: The relationships
found in this study based on about 140 subjects are not strong and reliable enough
to be used to make individual predictions of physical aggressiveness using a persons
index finger being shorter relative to his ring finger. Yet, this is an amazing finding
indicating the distant but important early prenatal influence on adult personality
traits. This measure is just one small factor influencing physical aggression. Such a
finding should remind us to not expect human behavior to be simple and easy to
Definition of Terms
We will study more about how anger develops. Is it innate? Certainly most
three-year-olds can throw a temper tantrum without any formal training and
often even without observing a model. Is it learned? Why are the abused
sometimes abusers? Does having a temper and being aggressive yield
payoffs? You bet. How do we learn to suppress aggression? How can we learn
to forgive others?
Anger can be the result of hurt pride, of unreasonable expectations, or of
repeated hostile fantasies. Besides getting our way, we may unconsciously
use anger to blame others for our own shortcomings, to justify oppressing
others, to boost our own sagging egos, to conceal other feelings, and to
handle other emotions (as when we become aggressive when we are afraid).
Any situation that frustrates us, especially when we think someone else is to
blame for our loss, is a potential trigger for anger and aggression.
So, what is frustration? It is the feeling we get when we don't get what
we want, when something interferes with our gaining a desired and expected
goal. It can be physical (a flat tire), our own limitations (paralysis after an
accident), our choices (an unprepared for and flunked exam), others' actions
(parental restrictions or torturing a political prisoner), others' motives
(deception for a self-serving purpose), or society's injustice (born into poverty
and finding no way out).
Anger is feeling mad in response to frustration or injury. You don't like
what has happened and usually you'd like to get revenge. Anger is an
emotional-physiological-cognitive internal state; it is separate from the
behavior it might prompt. In some instances, angry emotions are beneficial; if
we are being taken advantage of, anger motivates us to take action (not
necessarily aggressive) to correct the situation. Aggression is action, i.e.
attacking someone or a group. It is intended to harm someone. It can be a
verbal attack--insults, threats, sarcasm, or attributing nasty motives to them-
-or a physical punishment or restriction. What about thoughts and fantasies in
which we humiliate or brutally assault our enemies? Is that aggression? What
about violent dreams? Such thoughts and dreams suggest anger, of course,
but are not aggression as I have defined it here.