How violent can people get

violence

Material and immaterial violence

But the term has even more meanings, including neutral and positive ones. For example, when you are enthusiastic about something or praise someone: "That was tremendous." When it comes to the separation of powers in the state, the term is objective and impartial. The word "violence" itself comes from Old High German: "waltan" meant something like "to be strong" or "to control".

A look at the German police crime statistics shows: a good 5.5 million criminal offenses were recorded in 2018. Almost every 30th case of this counted as violent crime: 185,377 cases in that year, around 507 per day.

The list lists 2,471 cases of murder and manslaughter, 9234 cases of rape and sexual assault, 36,756 robbery offenses and 136,726 cases of dangerous and grievous bodily harm. All of these cases are examples of so-called material violence. A person, an animal or an object is attacked and physically damaged.

Violence, on the other hand, is immaterial if it is exercised psychologically, for example through humiliating words or withdrawal of love. Solitary confinement, sleep deprivation, stimulus deprivation, waterboarding and similar methods of psychological violence are also referred to as "white torture" because the victim is tortured, but no physical traces can be seen - the soul, on the other hand, can be severely damaged.

Violence has different goals

There can be various reasons why people use violence: Sometimes a person should be harmed, sometimes the victim should be subjected to their own will, and sometimes the violence should count as counter-violence to a previous act.

The purpose of an act of violence can also be differentiated differently: instrumentally, if the perpetrator wants to achieve a certain goal with the violence, but expressively, if the perpetrator becomes violent in order to portray himself.

The social theorist Jan Philipp Reemtsma differentiates between three types: locating violence, raptive violence and autotelian violence. In local violence, someone or something should be "removed" so that the way to one's own interests is free - examples are murder and war.

Raptive violence means taking possession of another body in order to then use it for your own interests - this happens, for example, in the case of rape. And "autotelisch" means "for an end in itself"; here violence is exercised for its own sake, primarily as a gain in pleasure - such as in torture.

Violent men, violent women

Men are more violent than women, some say. No, women are worse, say the others. Scientists have been arguing for years about what's right now. For every position there are studies that support your own opinion. But even overview articles, so-called meta-analyzes and reviews, do not come to a clear conclusion.

A study from Great Britain in which 271 one-year-old children were examined is out of the ordinary: around their first birthday, three babies came with their families to the researchers' laboratory, which was decorated as if for a real birthday party, including toys for everyone.

There the psychologists observed how the babies behaved, for example whether they hit another child with a toy: "No sex differences in aggressiveness were observed," the researchers wrote in 2011. However, it was found that those babies whose mother was during who had had mood disorders or a history of behavioral problems during pregnancy were more aggressive than the others.

Perhaps the dilemma of whether women or men are more violent can be resolved like this: Men tended to be more direct, outwardly directed, physical violence, and women preferred indirect, covert aggression, says German brain researcher Gerhard Roth.

In other words: men are more likely to strike, women are more likely to spin intrigues, stalk and abuse them. Roth sees one reason for this difference in the pronounced gender roles: "Girls don't hit" and "A boy has to be able to defend himself" are still common educational phrases.

Discover the potential for violence in the brain

Another determining factor in violence could be the brain. This is suggested by several scientific studies by Roth and other brain researchers. The most popular is the frontal lobe hypothesis. The frontal lobe controls fear, anger, and aggression.

In convicted murderers, the metabolism in this brain region was less active than in non-violent people, the US brain researcher Adrian Raine found out. However, this result was only valid for those convicts who had acted in affect - those convicts who had planned the murder for a long time had a normally functioning frontal lobe.

"If you see in such a brain that a piece of the frontal lobe is missing, then you can assume that these people are either violent or at least cannot curb their impulses," concluded the German brain researcher Gerhard Roth on Südwestrundfunk.

Still, there isn't just one cause for someone to become violent. Childhood experiences, an inherited tendency to violent outbreaks, and other factors can play a role - a combination of risk factors is probably crucial.