The Psychology of Assault: Exploring Motivations and Intentions

June 20th, 2023
The Psychology of Assault: Exploring Motivations and Intentions

What makes some individuals commit acts of violence like assault or sexual assault, and why do others refrain from these actions? The answer is complicated, and not fully understood. In today’s blog, we are going to talk about the psychology of assault in brief and general terms.

Behaviours like assault, a form of violence, are typically committed for a variety of reasons. While the immediate motivation could be something like power, such as demonstrating power over another person, or revenge, the more fundamental explanation is the same one that governs other ways we behave or even feel. Violence and aggression come from a complex interplay between biological, psychological, and social factors.

In theory, the combination of biological, psychological, and social factors is also responsible for things like depression, anxiety, and pain. Let’s look at these factors one at a time.


Biological factors refer to how your brain is wired, and how well or poorly impulsivity is controlled. Some medical conditions can contribute to someone’s aggression, such as a hormonal imbalance or a tumor affecting the brain or hormonal levels. Some of us may be predisposed to aggression, which may be seen when the right conditions promote it.

In addition, drugs or alcohol often affect the brains and behaviours of individuals causing them to do things they would not ordinarily do, which is not an excuse for these bad behaviours, but it is an explanation.


Psychological factors refer to how well you cope with stress and your daily life. Are you in touch with how you are feeling, such that you recognize when you are angry and feeling hostile? Do you have coping mechanisms in place to bring you down from that angry ledge. Or, in contrast, do you feel like you have to act out your inappropriate impulses? Some forms of mental illness can play a role in your impulse control (and mental illness could be a combination of both biological and psychological factors).


Social factors refer to how you interact with those around you and what pressures, good or bad, those with whom you associate may exert upon you. A warm and supportive family structure may tamp down on aggressive behaviours, while membership in a gang may promote them, for example.

Most of us have nasty thoughts on occasion, but the difference between criminals and non-criminals is whether or not we have the ability and desire to check our behaviour, block our impulses, and keep our behaviours within social and legal norms. 

If you have assaulted someone for whatever reason or been charged with any kind of assault, please contact Gagan Nahal for a free consultation in Vancouver at (604) 527-4769 as soon as possible. Mr. Nahal’s law practice focuses on criminal defence law, and he has extensive experience in this area of the law. We always advise not to make any statements to the police without first consulting your lawyer. You have that right. 

Gagan Nahal is a criminal defence lawyer based in Surrey, British Columbia, although he has represented clients across Canada. He works vigorously and tirelessly defending his clients. 

If you have any questions about this article or you would like to talk to Mr. Nahal, please call him directly at (604) 527-4769.