The Psychology of Violent Behaviour

Published 2009-08-27
Psych in the City 2007
The Psychology of Violent Behaviour
Dr. Kevin Douglas

Psychologists, like many people in society, have long puzzled over violence. What causes it? How can we predict it? How can we reduce it?

Violence is a salient public health concern that affects hundreds of thousands of Canadians annually, and costs society enormously. Why do some people act in a chronic and persistently violent manner?

Psychological science has identified a number of risk factors for violent behaviour, as well as possible means by which to reduce the risk for violence.

Several topics being studied by SFU researchers are highlighted. For instance, the role of major mental illness (i.e., schizophrenia) is a controversial, yet potentially important, phenomenon to understand in terms of its relationship to violence.

Certain personality traits, such as psychopathic personality, also have implications for violence, as do procriminal attitudes, and alcohol and drug problems.

Certain background factors (parental criminality; abuse) and contextual considerations (neighbourhood characteristics; stability of housing) elevate the risk for violent behaviour.

Importantly, social scientific research has identified promising violence reduction strategies that have been demonstrated to reduce violent behaviour. The presentation will conclude with suggestions for how psychological science can contribute to the reduction of violent behaviour in society.

All Comments (21)
  • Sir, your explanation was very nice. You also said that not much research has been done on psychopathic behaviour improvement. Yes it is very difficult to do so because these people never actually feel that they are behaving in a really anti social way and so unknowingly they continue to be the same or even because worse. But I have been observing many such people and have seen that there is no improvement in their behaviour and they get worse than before as time goes when they get better facilities and will never accept any correction from anyone. I feel the only correction for them is forced punishment for them so that they become aware atleast that they have done wrong to others and others have suffered because of them otherwise they can create more disasters compared to their own past behaviour.This can be done only by social observations as they will not seek for any treatment on their own.
  • Ezzaroonie
    Violence on any scale will inevitably draw reactions of "How can somebody do such a thing?!?!", or "What is wrong with people?!". I've come to realise that very few of the people who ask these questions actually want an answer. Rhetoric for the sake of social commentary is not conducive to actually finding answers to these very real questions. After all, we're all human. Whether you teach Sunday school to deaf kids, or bury them in your crawl space, the same central control system and data bank exists in both. So yes, I often ask the same questions when the behaviours of others don't align with my own logical sense of reasoning or moral compass, but there is no pretence of rhetoric in my questions - I am genuinely curious in knowing more about the human condition and how two brains, which in appearance are identical, can be universes apart. It's all so extraordinarily fascinating and I'm so excited to be living in an age where we are learning more and more about ourselves and our behaviours every day.
  • Mr Mr
    The dude hasn't smoked a drug in his life, nor wanted to cut his arms or many things...all the data on earth when being said by one amazing young man
  • Janey Ann
    Violence does go with poverty, but psychopathy doesn't.  He even casually admits that the numbers of cases of violence exactly correlate with the economy, you could probably plot them against the Dow Jones Industrial Average.  Most psychopaths don't commit obvious violence, they just destroy people, their livelihoods, homes, relationships and childhoods.  They lurk in respectable professions.
  • Julix
    He mentioned empathy training not being effective, but he didn't talk about the risk of psychopaths getting better at pretending to be empathetic! There have been findings of psychopaths getting worse (i.e. more powerful, just as evil) from it.
  • Individual vs Family dynamics of violence could have been explored more deeply. Still, it's a wonderful presentation..!
  • Alexander Zurba
    I go to certain bars in Toronto and also take the subway train and witness physical altercations such as bar fights street brawls and public disturbances like these in general, I believe violent people are both stupid,psychotic, angry and think hurting others physically is the answer.
  • video describes psychology of violent behaviour and many other factors related to violence Certain personality traits, such as psychopathic personality, also have implications for violence, as do procriminal attitudes, and alcohol and drug problems,he also discusses about Violence in many forms is preventable. There is a strong relationship between levels of violence and modifiable factors such as concentrated poverty, income and gender inequality, the harmful use of alcohol, and the absence of safe, stable, and nurturing relationships between children and parents. Strategies addressing the underlying causes of violence can be effective in preventing violence
  • Slimmo Simmo
    Audience reacting like this is a stand up comedy. Clearly the majority haven’t experienced violence firsthand. Smh. Greetings from South America.
  • Alexander Zurba
    There's absolutely no excuse for violence, such as fist fights or physical abuse.
  • Peter Dixon
    The graph at 23:00 lacks crucial information. The x axis should be labelled to indicate that low and high refer to the patient's score on the psychopathy rubric. Even more useful would be an actual score for comparison, and the name of the test in question, which would let a skeptic check the experiment for criticism or look it up out of curiosity.
  • Alex Klatt
    Some folks are tired of reporting crimes when nothing is done about it except for the Perpetrator getting even, when you turn him/her, causing the stats. being skewed..
  • Michael Stugart
    Alot of people talk about bad behaviors. You each who I mean are missing the point in some ways. Standing up for the best behaving individuals is more so what should occur because the best behaving individuals are more important than the worst behaving. With that being true facts we should be focusing on improving our best behaviors of the human race and supporting the people who do the amazingly correct behaviors. That's some of how we should be focusing such as creating amazingly correct behaviors and yes sometimes it's certainly a must to stand up for the best behaving individuals against the worst behaving individuals who unjustly hurt such important people. Yes I think it's certainly facts to say the truth is the best ways to improve the evolution of behaviors so that it can improve amazingly correct how I mean such as make decisions the best that we can and with the most accurate measurements that we can and that's some of why I love the truth to be in the decision making process and evaluating process and so on how I am referring about because I want the universe to improve and it will if we help it by behaving amazingly correct.
  • smith david
    This dude making me feel violent just taking all day about to get to the damn point!
  • Alan P
    8:55 As a teenager I find this actually funny
  • Charlie Angkor
    Every camera in the world is delusional - when filming in sufficiently low light condition, it records a snow or visual noise which actually doesn't exist. Every microphone is delusional - when recording in a quiet enough setting it records a hiss which doesn't exist.
  • Yes
    As a Canadian Hastings is actually kinda scary
  • Belinda Elisa
    The Peace Meditation Die Friedensmeditation. Old Lyran written as: Salome gam nan ben Urda - gan njber asala Hesporona! pronounced as: Saalome gam naan ben uurda gan njjber asaala hesporoona! English: Peace be on the Earth, and among all created creations! Deutsch: Friede sei auf der Erde, und unter allen Geschöpfen!
  • Kim Young
    Another reason for increasing violence has very much a socioeconomic element.