Dodge and Crick (1990) model of aggressive behavior

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Dodge and Crick combined Attribution Theory which states, “Individual’s approach situations as cognitive thinkers who search for causes to stimulus, and who respond behaviorally on the bases of those attributions and inferences” (Dodge & Crick, 1990). An example of this would be that Lisa and Tina are playing in a Checker completion. Lisa is losing and tilts the board. Before Tina responds she thinks of reasons why Lisa behaved in such a way. If Tina draws the conclusion that Lisa behaved in this manner to ruin her chances of winning the prize Tina will respond aggressively.

Dodge and Crick also drew from the Decision-Making Theory. The idea of this theory is that individuals rely on several characteristics when making decisions, however the most prominent characteristics are, “representativeness and availability” (Dodge & Crick, 1990). The representativeness aspect is the “tendency to classify a stimulus object as belonging to a particular category” (Dodge & Crick, 1990). For example, if a child has developed the idea that all ‘smart people’ wear glasses, when meeting a new person that wears glasses the child automatically associates their glasses with a high level of intelligence. The availability characteristic is the “tendency to make a judgment on the frequency or the likelihood of the event on the basis of how frequently that event has been stored in memory” (Dodge & Crick, 1990).

If a child is a victim of being bullied by children who are physically bigger, the child assumes children that are bigger will bully him as well. Once the individual had both the representativeness and the availability of a decision in their mind it creates accessibility. The tendencies that rise with these categories are easily accessed because they are previously stored. Another theory that was used was the Information-Processing theories. These theories simply state that “behavioral responses to problematic stimuli occur as a function of a sequence of cognitive process” (Dodge & Crick, 1990).

As a result of the collected theories Dodge and Crick created the Model of Aggressive Behavior, while simultaneously discovering that “biased or deficient processing is hypothesized to lead to deviant social behavior” (Crick & Dodge 1990). The Model of Aggressive Behavior focuses on the outcome of aggressive behavior by examining the cognitive process associates with these aggressive behaviors. Their model consist of five steps: encoding social cues, interpretation of social cues, response search, response evaluation and response enactment. In step one; encoding social cues, the individual must “encounter the social problem” (Baron & Richardson, 1994). If the individual does not encounter an issue the cognitive process for this particular model does not start. The next step is the interpretation of the cue. The individual’s interpretation of the cur serves an important role in the cognition process; because the individual’s personal interpretation of the cue shapes their response.

In step three the individual must “search memory for a behavioral response” (Baron & Richardson, 1994). This step allows the individual to determine which responses are readily accessible. After searching his memory the individual must consider if he is “capable of performing the act” (Baron & Richardson, 1994). For example, a bigger child takes a toy from a smaller child. The smaller child may consider aggression; however the response of aggression is tossed aside due to the physical differences between the two. Now take into consideration if the children were equal in size, aggression would most likely be the response. In agreeance, Huesmann and Miller state, “what is important is the cognitive evaluation of events taking place in the child’s [individual’s] environment, how the child interprets these events and how competent he/she feels in responding in different ways” (1994). The final step is response enactment. Once the individual notices the cue, interprets the cue as a hostile act, searches their memory for an aggressive response, perceives from their evaluation that they are capable of performing their aggressive response they respond aggressively.

Example / Application - Real Life

In a You Tube video clip the Model of Aggressive Behavior is clearly portrayed. The younger brother is upset because his older brother took his car the night before to attend a Christmas party. Before the older brother returned home he crashed into a snow bank. The crash serves as the cue sparking the start of the cognitive process associated with the model of aggressive behavior. The younger brother notices the cue when his car was returned wrecked and began to interpret the cue as a hostile act. After his interpretation he searched his memory for a response. In the video the younger brother verbalizes that he is going to smash his brother’s new television ‘on accident’. While he says the words on accident he gestures with his hands making quotations around the word accident revealing to his viewers that he is actually going to smash the television on purpose as a response to his brother wreaking his car. The younger brother has extreme confidence in his ability to destroy his brother’s television in an act of revenge and runs into the room screaming “Merry Christmas” as he proceeds to smash the screen of his brother’s 32’ television with a wooden baseball bat.

Example / Application - Columbine

The Model of Aggressive Behavior applies to the Columbine shooting if and only if the myths surrounding the shooting were proven to be true. Perhaps if the shooting was a result of Harris and Kleboid getting revenge on the jocks that bullied them, the act of the bullying would spark the start of stage one. The bullying would allow them to encode the cue then interpret the social cue shortly after. Later they would search their memories, evaluate their ability to complete their response and shoot up Columbine High School as their response enactment; if the myths surrounding Columbine were true. However, because we know that myths are untrue stories, the Model of Aggressive Behavior does not apply to Columbine. The Columbine shooting was not a response to a hostile cue; it was the quest for the teenage, “depressive and the psychopath” (Cullen, 2004). to become historically infamous. They were not boys who accidentally stumbled upon the Model of Aggressive Behavior as a means of tit-for-tat, they dreamed to “terrorize the entire nation by attacking a symbol of American life” (Cullen, 2004). In order to understand Columbine, you must understand the killers and Cullen states, “if you want to understand ‘the killers’ quit asking what drove them” (2004).

According to Vecchi perpetrators of school violence have an “interest in real and fictional violence” along with “violent fantasies” (2009). The Model of Aggression begins with a driving force, a cue that is interpreted as aggressive which in turn leads to an aggressive response; therefore if there is no cue to encode, there is no model. With a hot tempered depressive and a psychopath, no cue is needed for them to respond aggressively. Lastly, rather the truth behind Columbine is analyzed of the myths the Model of Aggression would not have prevented Columbine, because aggressive individuals “expect positive outcomes to accrue for aggressing and feel more confident in their ability to perform aggressive acts” (Dodge & Crick, 1990). When an individual interprets the outcome of aggression as a positive one they are willing to engage in whatever it takes to reach that outcome. With this insight there is nothing that could have prevented the columbine from occurring.


Baron, R.A., & Richardson, D.R. (1994). Aggressive behavior: current perspectives. Ney York, New York: Plenum Press, New York.

Crick, N.R., & Dodge, K.A. (1996). Social information-processing mechanisms on reactive and proactive aggression. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 67(3), 993-1002.

Cullen, D. (2004, April 20). The Depressive and the psychopath: at last we know why the columbine killers did it. Slate, Retrieved from

Dodge, K.A., & Crick, N.R. (1990). Social information-processing bases of aggressive behavior in children. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 16(1), 8-22.

Huesmann, L.R. (1994). Aggressive behavior: current perspectives. Ney York, New York: Plenum Press, New York.

Vecchi, G.M. (2009). Conflict & crisis communication: workplace and school violence, stockholm, and abnormal psychology. Annals of the American Psychotherapy Assn, 12(3), 30-39.

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