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On Aggression (1966) is a book by ethologist Konrad Lorenz written in 1963[1]. As he writes in the prologue, "the subject of this book is aggression, that is to say the fighting instinct in beast and man which is directed against members of the same species." (Page 3)

According to Lorenz, animals, particularly males, are biologically programmed to fight over resources. This behavior must be considered part of natural selection, as aggression leading to death or serious injury may eventually lead to extinction unless it has such a role.

However, Lorenz does not state that aggressive behaviors are in any way more powerful, prevalent, or intense than more peaceful behaviors such as mating rituals. Rather, he negates the categorization of aggression as "contrary" to "positive" instincts like love, depicting it as a founding basis of other instincts and its role in animal communication.

Additionally, the book addresses behavior in humans, including discussion of a "hydraulic" model of emotional or instinctive pressures and their release, shared by Freud, and the abnormality of intraspecies violence and killing. His 'hydraulic' model, of aggression as a force that builds relentlessly without cause unless released, remains less popular than a model in which aggression is a response to frustrated desires and aims[citation needed].


Template:Ambox/small In the book, Lorenz describes the development of rituals among aggressive behaviors as beginning with a totally utilitarian action, but then progressing to more and more stylized actions, until finally, the action performed may be entirely symbolic and non-utilitarian, now fulfilling a function of communication. In Lorenz's words,

"Thus, while the message of inciting [a particular aggressive behavior performed by the female of cooperating mated pairs] in Ruddy Shelduck and Egyptian Geese could be described as "Drive him off, thrash him!" in Diving ducks [a related species in which this trait has been further ritualized] it simply means, "I love you." In several groups, midway between these two extremes, as for example in the Gadwall and the Widgeon, an intermediate meaning may be found: "You are my hero. I rely on you." (Page 64)


Despite its influence on popular thought, there has been significant criticism of the ideas in On Aggression, notably by Erich Fromm in his book The Anatomy of Human Destructiveness.[2]


  1. Das sogenannte Böse zur Naturgeschichte der Aggression, Original edition : Verlag Dr. G Borotha-Schoeler, 1963.
  2. Fromm, Erich (1973) The Anatomy of Human Destructiveness

See also

de:Das sogenannte Böse

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