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Erich Fromm's analytic social psychology: testing the relationships among cooperation, aggression and trait biophilia

By Adrian Adler


Erich Fromm’s biophilia, a theory of personality development incorporating an\ud interaction between existential needs and the socio-economic environment, was a\ud significant element of Fromm’s proposed Analytic Social Psychology. Despite an\ud enduring influence, Fromm’s theory of biophilia has been largely untested in the\ud literature. Fromm argued that biophilia was the optimum way to conceptualise\ud malignant aggression, and that the introduction and reward of cooperation was the\ud best way to increase levels of biophilia, and thereby reduce levels of destructive\ud behaviour in a population. It was the aim of this thesis to investigate whether the\ud introduction and reward of cooperation would increase biophilia, and decrease\ud aggression, in a population. In Studies One to Six, a trait biophilia scale was\ud developed and psychometric validity and reliability established. In Studies Seven to\ud Nine, scale predictive validity in comparison to existing trait measures was\ud investigated in theoretically appropriate areas including online behaviour, positive\ud psychology and pro-environmental behaviour. In Study Ten, a game theory paradigm\ud for introducing and rewarding cooperation was developed, and the relationships\ud among biophilia, cooperation and aggression were investigated. Contrary to Fromm’s\ud theory, a positive association between aggression and cooperation, and negative\ud associations between those and biophilia, were found. In addition, the effects of\ud introducing and rewarding cooperation were investigated, and again contrary to\ud Fromm’s theory, introducing and rewarding cooperation produced an increase in\ud aggression and a reduction in biophilia. These findings may reflect an inherent\ud tension within Fromm’s theory between the use of existential needs, that were argued\ud to be the product of competitive natural selection, and the use of cooperative\ud interventions derived from Marxist theory. It is proposed that the relationships among\ud biophilia, cooperation and aggression may be mediated by frustration. Implications\ud for interventions and future research are discussed

Publisher: University of Leicester
Year: 2009
OAI identifier:

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