Aggression is a natural part of our psyche despite the fact that we are the most sociable creatures on earth. We possess remarkable ability to co-operate with one another. Unfortunately we also possess ‘unparalleled ferocity’. We are not natural killers. We find it difficult to kill in cold blood. In short, we love as well as hate killing. Both violence and aversion to violence are deeply rooted in our nature. Our nurture impacts our violent tendencies.
Debra Niehoff, the author of The Biology of Violence, says that our brain is an organic historian. It keeps track of our experiences through the language of chemistry. Any change in our response to stress also gets recorded. When we confront an unknown person, we try to judge him/her through our previous experiences stored as recorded messages. Based on the chemistry of those feelings we respond. Based on this response, the unknown person responds. After every interaction we update our neuro-chemical profile of the world, and accordingly our relationship with others. Stressful environment leads to aggression, and vice versa. Scientists postulate that the prefrontal cortex of the brain has the ability to restrain negative behaviour. Damage to this area may cause intelligent and respectful people to become fitful, impulsive, and rude.
Neurocriminology is the study of minds of violent criminals. It tries to understand how the criminal and violent minds are different from ‘normal’ minds. Adrian Raine, author of The Anatomy of Violence: the biological roots of crime, studies the brains of violent criminals and psychopaths. He says biology, besides social and environmental elements, plays a significant role towards one’s violent behaviour. The purpose of his research was to understand criminal behaviour. This understanding guides one to approach crime prevention and rehabilitation of criminals. Raine thinks enough efforts are not being made to motivate the criminals to change. ‘Bad brains’ cause bad behaviour. If the causes of brain dysfunction are identified and effectively rectified early, perhaps the world will be less violent.