Effects of impulsivity and power discrepancy on physical aggression in men
Frey, Fred Charles
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The General Affective Aggression Model (GAAM), an integrated model for the control of aggressive behavior, was introduced by Anderson in 1997. The model posits that aggression is produced through three distinct but interrelated “pathways,” which are marked by aggressive thoughts, hostile feelings, and real or perceived physiological arousal. According to this model, an “appraisal” process subsequently occurs, during which an individual surveys his/her situation and other relevant factors that may inform his/her decision to behave aggressively. The current study sought to examine the appraisal stage using data from participants reported to exhibit high and low levels of behavioral impulsivity, a trait that has been shown to undermine one’s ability to engage in such contemplative processes. Participants engaged in the Response Choice Aggression Paradigm – Modified (RCAP-M), in which, under the guise of a competitive reaction time task, they were given the opportunity to administer shock to a fictitious opponent. Presentation or withholding of a situational cue indicating threat of massive retaliation from a provoker/target, which has been previously demonstrated to inhibit aggressive response to provocation, was used as a “power discrepancy” manipulation. Analyses revealed significant interactive effects for impulsivity and power discrepancy, whereby high-impulsive individuals exhibited no reductions in physical aggression in the presence of this inhibitory cue, while low-impulsivity participants exhibited significantly lower levels of aggression in the presence of this cue than in its absence. Additionally, low-impulsivity participants behaved significantly less aggressively than did high- impulsivity participants in the presence of this cue. The apparent ability of individuals who are inclined to behave in a relatively careful, deliberate manner to inhibit aggressive behavior under threat of massive retaliation, combined with the failure of individuals poorly equipped to engage in careful appraisal of salient situational cues to do so, underscores the importance of “appraisal” processes in the control of aggressive behavior.