Understanding the Primal and Cognitive Aggression Continua (See Graphic Below)

Early in our 18 years to pursue a “prevention” solution to workplace violence, we came to realize that there at two types of aggression, Primal and Cognitive.  Primal Aggression is built upon the primal instincts of fight or flight, fueled by adrenaline (that connection between “aggression,” the production of adrenaline, the increase in the heart rate and the resulting body language and behavior that we can objectively identify and measure); Primal Aggression is indicative of an individual “losing control,” who in the extreme will spiral out of control into panic and or rage. 

But what about conscious, deliberate aggression?  For this we developed Cognitive Aggression, fueled by “intent.”  Quite simply, the question is “what is your intent with this person or persons?”  Is it in your interest and theirs therefore a “win/win” as it should be, or is it in your interest and to their detriment; in other words, you intend to victimize this person or persons, you are becoming a victimizer; subsequently a predator (someone who intends to harm for a purpose, like a robbery or murder).  Ultimately the highest form of Cognitive Aggression (the 9th Phase) is the “terrorist;” someone who intends to evoke terror in the hearts and minds of their victims.

When combined, these two continua present a formidable picture of “emerging aggression.” Permitting its user the opportunity to foresee “emerging aggression” and prevent it.  Each phase of aggression (0-9) offers the precursors to its next phase and therefore provide the opportunity to prevent it.   The highest phase is the 9th Phase, which represents the individuals whose goal it is to “give up their life for their cause,” (the perpetrator of murder/suicide) and their behavior reflects this.  The 8th Phase is the murderer or combatant, who is prepared to give up his life for a cause but intends to survive, in the case of the combatant, to kill more of you tomorrow. The 7th Phase is the Complicit Tactician (accomplice), who is completely complicit with the 8th and 9th Phase Cognitive Aggressors (they want people to die) but they are not going to die for nor commit these murders, they will inspire others to do so; and their behavior reflects this intention.  Below you will see our graphic that illustrates Phases 0 through 9 of both Primal and Cognitive Aggression and how each continuum integrates with the other. Whether your concern is within the Crisis Phase where there is a strong possibility of imminent lethality; or in the 4th Phase where your concern is “Bullying and Conflict” the Primal and Cognitive Aggression Continua offers the opportunity to foresee and prevent subsequent levels/phases of aggression.

The advantages of using the “Aggression Continuum” are that it provides objective observables that all departments can use, tearing down departmental silos; it can be used outside of HIPPA, FERPA and other privacy regulations;  and the indicators and training are intuitive and therefore are easy to learn and apply, it does not require special sophistication or advanced degrees. 

Whether you are a member of an Executive Security, Threat Assessment or Behavioral Intervention Team, Human Research Professional, Mental Health Counselors or simply someone who is troubled by aggression of those around them, the Primal and Cognitive Aggression Continua can be an invaluable objective tool in preventing aggressive behavior in others.



  1. It is the new form of technology and it will definitely be the best.New cognitive models are evolving and it is in our best interest to keep things safe and secure.This can be a real promising stuff.

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