Inside Disruption Blog

R3 Speaks: Affective vs. Predatory Violence: All Violence is not the Same

George L. Vergolias
March 20, 2017


There is a clear and well-developed body of research showing that humans have two distinct psychobiological modes of violence and aggression response. One is Affective, or emotional; the other is Predatory, or targeted. Affective violence mobilizes the emotional “fight or flight” response system, towards thwarting off or evading a threat. Predatory violence mobilizes a more cognitive planning attack mode, designed to “hunt” down an intended target(s).


These operate on different anatomical structures and neuronal pathways in the brain, and mobilize different parts of our body to respond to different situations. They are also mutually exclusive and incompatible for simultaneous function – we cannot be in both modes at the same time.


As we witness increased mass attacks, global and domestic terror, and other acts of violence, there is much discussion about violence in the mental health treatment community, the media, and in our culture as a whole. But we repeatedly fail to make the distinction in understanding, and talking about, these different types of violence, their differing dynamics, and how those impact our ability to detect, mitigate, and develop interventions at the public policy and individual levels to reduce violence incidence.


Yet, without such clarity we are destined to fall short in our understanding of violence as it occurs in various contexts, and thus also destined to fail in identifying the correct solutions. It’s time we had that discussion to clarify those concepts.

George Vergolias

VP, Medical Director

About the Author: George Vergolias, PsyD, LP is a forensic psychologist and threat management expert serving as Vice President and Medical Director for the R3 Continuum. As part of his role of Vice President and Medical Director of R3 Continuum, he leads their Threat of violence and workplace violence programs. Dr. Vergolias is also the founder and President of TelePsych Supports, a tele-mental health company providing involuntary commitment and crisis risk evaluations for hospitals and emergency departments. He has over 20 years of forensic experience with expertise in the following areas: violence risk and threat management, psychological dynamics of stalking, sexual offending, emotional trauma, civil and involuntary commitment, suicide and self-harm, occupational disability, law enforcement consultation, expert witness testimony, and tele-mental health. Dr. Vergolias has directly assessed or managed over one thousand cases related to elevated risk for violence or self-harm, sexual assault, stalking, and communicated threats. He has consulted with regional, state, and federal law enforcement agencies, including the FBI, Secret Service, and Bureau of Prisons. He has worked for and consulted with Fortune 500 companies, major insurance carriers, government agencies, and large healthcare systems on issues related to work absence management, workplace violence, medical necessity reviews, and expert witness consultation.