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Taste Of Victory Is Also A Drug


People quickly get used to good things. The person who has experienced joy of victory many times would wish to feel it over and over again and (s)he turns into aggressor. This has been proved by Russian researchers investigating aggressive behavior of mice.

Investigating aggressive behavior of mice N.N. Kudriavtseva, Doctor of Science (Biology), Head of the Neurogenetics of Social Behavior Sector, Institute of Cytology and Genetics, Siberian Branch, Russian Academy of Sciences, has proved that continuous social success turns the winner into aggressor.

The life of any animal, be it an insect or a primacy, is impossible without aggression. An animal becomes aggressive when it feels pain or fear, when it has to protect the territory, female or babies, or when it has to ascertain who is the senior. Although there are a lot of causes for aggression in nature, it seldom comes down to a brutal fight and particularly to a murder. Judging by the scent, appearance and each other’s behavior, the males understand who is stronger, and the weaker retreats. Nevertheless, the life requires that the males should always be ready for aggression. They accumulate aggressive energy, which looks for coming out. If the cause for aggression does not occur for a long time, any trifle can serve as a “trigger”. Sometimes the males overfilled with evil energy provoke the fight by themselves. Some people behave in the same way. They have formed a habit for permanent aggressive behavior.

Pretty often, this is typical of the people of certain professions: military men, militiamen, security guards, professional sportsmen (boxers or hockey players). Such type of aggression is called trained one by psychologists. Laboratory researches on mice have allowed to explain what happens to such people. The males were kept in pairs in a small common cage divided by a transparent partition with holes, which allowed the animals to see, hear and smell each other excluding physical contact. Once a day, the partition was removed, and the animals immediately rushed to sort out their relationship. Already during the first clashes it became clear who was the winner and who was beaten. Every day, the winner revelled in the success. No such situations occur in natural conditions, that is why long-standing winners began to behave abnormally in the course of time: they got very active, aggressive, irritable and anxious. Looking for the way out for their irritation, the males threw themselves successively on anything: on another male in a subordination posture, on a female, on the experimentalist’s hand. The researchers came to the conclusion that the males with extensive experience of aggression formed internal impulse for attacking and oppressing another male, as they earlier experienced positive emotions in this connection, accompanying the victory over a prostrate enemy. The opioidergic systems of the brain are responsible for these emotions. Opiate drugs also affect the same systems. The brain gets “used” to positive emotions in the same way as to drugs, and a stronger stimulus is needed to experience the joy of victory again. That is why the males accustomed to victories become more and more aggressive. If the mice “addicted” to victory are isolated, they do not calm down, but become even more violent. When they get to share the cage with the partner again, they rush into fighting with redoubled energy. The more time the winner mice spent in solitary confinement, the more aggressive they became. It can be said that they had accumulated aggressive energy all that time and this energy broke through outside.

N.N. Kudriavtseva points out that aggression can be provoked not only by experience of victories, but also by lengthy stay in any unfavorable environment. In case of permanent physical or psychological discomfort, aggression develops even with the individuals that are not disposed to its manifestation. Accumulation of negative emotions serves as a neurophysiological mechanism in this cases, triggering aggression of irritation and fear that would not become apparent in case of short-term action on negative factors.

It was Konrad Lorenz, outstanding etologist and the Nobel Prize laureate, who assumed that aggressive energy accumulated and looked for way out. The scientist also applied his concept to the human society, in particular, he explained by the excess of aggressive energy the actions of the world leaders who unleashed wars and annihilated tremendous amounts of people. In their time, the majority of researchers rejected Lorenz’ idea, but now it has both theoretical and experimental verification.

Sergey Komarov | alfa
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