Living in a Social World
Psy 324: Advanced Social Psychology
Fall, 1996
Miami University

Calvin & Hobbes Go to War:
Aggression, Conflict, and Communication

Jon Gresko, Lynn Kennedy, and Missy Maxwell

From The Essential Calvin and Hobbes, by Bill Waterson
1988, Kansas City: Andrews & McMeel Publishers

     It seems human aggression is more prevalent today than ever. Everyday on the news you hear about a homicide committed in "Anytown", USA. Man is the only animal that practices war and mass murder. So what makes humans different? The key seems to be in our social learning process. When Hobbes asks, "How come we play war and not peace?", Calvin so rightly points out, "Too few role models."

     Horowitz and Bordens (1995) define aggression as any behavior intended to inflict physical or psychological harm on another person or thing. Aggression is everywhere, everyday. Wars, examples of sanctioned aggression, and murders, examples of hostile aggression are the most publicized. However, more subtle forms of aggression stemming from the desire to achieve a goal, or the desire to deny someone else their goal are just as common. 90% of murders, 94% of robberies, and 91% of aggravated assaults are committed by males. Males show higher levels of physical aggression, while females are more verbally aggressive. This aggression results from a combination of heredity and environment, with a major emphasis on environmental factors. Gender roles are one reason for this. Boys are encouraged to take part in more aggressive activities than girls are. Role models are also an important factor in aggression. Studies show children imitate the behaviors of their adult models. The media and television are two controversial factors in aggression.

     Television is loaded with violence and broadcasts it to children around the world. Children imitate what they see, be it at home, in school, or on television.

     Conflicts, disagreements over social issues, beliefs, or behaviors, and frustration resulting from blocked goals can also lead to aggression. Communication alone does not help resolve a conflict, and may even escalate it. It must be used in conjunction with other methods of dealing with conflict and aggression. Finding more positive ways of venting frustration such as sports can help. Stereotypes not only contribute to aggression, but they also affect how we try to resolve aggression. Beliefs about other groups may be taken as fact, even if they are based on inferences. An integrative solution, based on communication and the desire to resolve the conflict, is the ideal way to end conflicts and aggression. The aspirations of both sides are taken and blended to integrate the needs of both parties. If a solution can not be reached, both sides make small concessions unitl an agreement is reached. The biggest obstacle is getting the parties involved to sit down and talk about their problem.

     According to Russell Geen, the only way to control aggression is to attack the roots of aggression. On the individual level we need to alter the learning structures of children, promote better values, and regulate violent symbols children are exposed to. On the societal level we need to promote the equality and importance of all members of society.


     Baenninger, R. The Encyclopedia of Human Behavior. "Aggression." The Academic Press, Inc. New York, 1994.

     Goldenson, R. The Encyclopedia of Human Behavior. "Aggression." Doubleday and Co., Inc. Garden City, New York, 1970.

     Horowitz, I. A., & Bordens, K. S. Social Psychology. Mayfield Publishing Co. Mountain View, California, 1995.

     Tesser, A. Advanced Social Psychology. McGraw-Hill, Inc. New York, 1995.

Address Correspondence To: LGKENNEDY@www.MUOHIO.EDU
Name: Lynn Kennedy
Affiliation: Miami University Undergraduate
Address: 110 N. University, Oxford, OH, 45056
Phone: (513) 524-3152

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Social Psychology / Miami University (Ohio USA). Last revised: Thursday, April 18, 2002 at 15:41:42. This document has been accessed 1,370 +  1  times since 1 June 1996. Comments & Questions to R. Sherman