War, Sports and Aggression: An Empirical Test of Two Rival Theories1


  • 1

    I wish to thank Professors Raoul Naroll, Keith Otterbein and Terrence Tatje for their encouragement, critical review and comments on this paper. Professor Otterbein directed me to the frustration-war statements of Dollard, Ellis, McDougall, and Steward and Faron. Professor Robert F. Winch, of Northwestern University, informed me of S. M. Mueller's study. Jacqueline Mithun directed me to a publication I otherwise would have overlooked. Fred Fohl and Gerald Pacillo, with their encyclopedic knowledge of American sports and unflagging interest in the project, were of considerable help. Rolf Wirsing performed the role of computer expert. Any errors or misjudgments, of course, reflect on me alone.


This paper investigates relationships between war, sport and aggression. Two rival models of behavior are tested: the Drive Discharge Model and the Culture Pattern Model Two test strategies are used: a cross-cultural correlation study and a diachronic case study of the U.S. War and combative sports are found to be positively correlated, thus discrediting aggression as a drive in humans and supporting it as a learned cultural behavior pattern.