Barbara Krahé, University of Potsdam

Barbara Krahé, University of Potsdam

Friday, 27 September 2019 at 11:00 in the CNR Seminar Room, EMBL Rome

Barbara Krahé, University of Potsdam, Germany

Why do Humans Harm and Kill Each Other? A Psychological Perspective on the Causes of Aggression and Violence


Aggression (defined as behavior intended to harm) and violence (behavior intended to cause severe physical harm) are ubiquitous in human societies around the world. They cause immeasurable harm and suffering to individuals, groups, and communities and also create high material costs to societies. Therefore, understanding why humans engage in these forms of destructive behavior is a challenge for scientific research that has immediate applied consequences in a wide range of societal domains.

Aggression and violence are complex behaviors in which potential causes at the individual, interpersonal, group, and societal level come together, requiring a multidisciplinary approach for their understanding. Psychology, and social psychology in particular, is one of the key disciplines in this concerted search for understanding. In this talk, I will present an overview of psychological theorizing and empirical findings addressing four major questions:

  1. How can we explain why humans show aggressive behavior and what are the processes that lead from an aggression-eliciting stimulus to an aggressive response?
  2. Do humans differ in their propensity to engage in aggressive behavior?
  3. What are critical factors in the situation or the social environment that make aggressive behavior more likely?
  4. What can be done to prevent or reduce aggression? The talk will conclude by outlining a multidisciplinary agenda for future research on the causes of aggression and violence.


Barbara Krahé is Professor of Social Psychology at the University of Potsdam, Germany. She is author of the textbook The social psychology of aggression (2nd ed. 2013) and current President of the International Society for Research on Aggression (ISRA). She is a Fellow of the British Psychological Society and the Association for Psychological Science and a member of the Berlin-Brandenburg Academy of Sciences. In 2015, she was awarded the German Psychology Prize for her work on aggression.