Don't tread on me

Kevin Lewis

November 02, 2013

Bad News, Bad Times, and Violence: The Link Between Economic Distress and Aggression

Christopher Barlett & Craig Anderson
Psychology of Violence, forthcoming

Objective: The current research applied the general aggression model (GAM) to explain the relation between negative societal changes (e.g., indicators of a poor economy) on aggression-related outcomes. One correlational and one experimental study tested the relationships between these variables as well as possible mediating mechanisms.

Method: In Study 1 (N = 193), participants completed several measures to assess aggression, stress from current economic crises, and trait hostility. In Study 2 (N = 101), participants were randomly assigned to view stressful news videos (clips suggesting the economy is poor) or neutral news videos prior to completing state measures of stress and hostility.

Results: Study 1 found significant positive relations between stress from negative societal changes and aggression, mediated by hostility. Study 2 showed that viewing stressful news videos increased state hostility, which was mediated by state levels of stress.

Conclusions: Overall, results suggest that indicators of poor economic times are related to aggression and hostility. These findings offer theoretical implications for the utility of the GAM in explaining how societal-level shifts in economy-related variables can influence aggression levels at the individual level.


Social Status Moderates the Relationship Between Facial Structure and Aggression

Stefan Goetz et al.
Psychological Science, forthcoming

A growing body of evidence has linked individual differences in facial structure — in particular, the facial width-to-height ratio (FWHR) — to social behaviors, including aggression, cheating, and nonreciprocation of trust. In the research reported here, we extended this work by demonstrating that the association between FWHR and aggression is moderated by subjective and objective measures of social status. In Study 1 (N = 237 college students), FWHR was positively correlated with aggressive behavior, but only among men reporting relatively low social status. In Study 2 (N = 891 professional hockey players), FWHR was positively correlated with penalty minutes, but only among players who earned relatively low salaries. Collectively, these studies provide compelling evidence for the role of social status in moderating the relationship between facial structure and aggression, indicating that FWHR is a robust predictor of aggressive behavior, but only in the context of relatively low social status.


Giving peace a chance: Oxytocin increases empathy to pain in the context of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict

Simone Shamay-Tsoory et al.
Psychoneuroendocrinology, forthcoming

Studies have argued that empathy to the pain of out-group members is largely diminished by “in-group empathy bias”. Investigating the mechanism underlying the emotional reactions of Jewish Israeli participants towards the pain experienced by Palestinians in the context of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict affords a natural experiment that allows us to examine the role of neurohormones in emotion sensitivity across conflicting social groups. In a double-blind placebo-controlled within-subject crossover design, Israeli Jewish participants were asked to report their empathy to the pain of in-group (Jewish), neutral out-group (European), and adversary out-group (Palestinian) members. Oxytocin remarkably increased empathy to the pain of Palestinians, attenuating the effect of in-group empathy bias observed under the placebo condition. This effect, we argue, is driven by the general role of oxytocin in increasing the salience of social agents which, in turn, may interfere with processes pertaining to derogation of out-group members during intractable conflicts.


The Impact of School Bullying on Racial/Ethnic Achievement

Lisa Williams & Anthony Peguero
Race and Social Problems, December 2013, Pages 296-308

Significant bodies of scholarship have explored family background and its implications for racial/ethnic differences in academic achievement. Much less attention, however, has focused on the ways in which victimization in schools — and bullying in particular — may impact student performance. Drawing on nationally representative data from the Educational Longitudinal Study of 2002 and employing multilevel analysis from four racial/ethnic groups (Asian, black, Latino, and white), this study examines: (1) the impact of bullying on achievement and (2) the extent to which high- or low-achieving students are more vulnerable to bullying. Results indicate that bullying is relatively more frequent among blacks who are higher achievers and that bullying has equally detrimental consequences on later achievement for all racial/ethnic groups considered in this study. These findings are discussed relative to prior research on racial/ethnic inequality, education, and victimization, and also public policy efforts to address bullying in schools.


Extensiveness and persistence of aggressive media exposure as longitudinal risk factors for teen dating violence

Laura Friedlander et al.
Psychology of Violence, October 2013, Pages 310-322

Objective: To determine whether adolescents’ use of aggressive media is a risk for dating violence victimization and perpetration, considering extensiveness across media types (TV, movies, music, magazines, Internet) and persistence over 3 years.

Method: On three occasions, 1 year apart, 238 boys and 246 girls (mean age 15.06 years) with romantic partners completed measures of media aggression, dating violence-tolerant attitudes, and victimization and perpetration of dating violence. Two models were tested: cumulative risk of extensive and persistent use and mediational role of attitudes.

Results: Findings support the cumulative risk of extensive aggressive media usage on dating violence victimization and perpetration across three waves. Violence-tolerant attitudes fully mediated the longitudinal pathway between aggressive media use and perpetration and partially mediated the pathway for victimization.

Conclusion: Findings indicate that aggressive media increases the incidence of dating violence over 3 years and is mediated by its effect on adolescents’ attitudes about violence. Analyzing this effect for victimization and perpetration, the findings demonstrate the widespread effect of the media and have important implications for dating violence theories. The focus of dating violence prevention on youths’ attitudes regarding violence is supported with the recommendation to include media awareness training in the curricula.


Playing Violent Video Games Increases Intergroup Bias

Tobias Greitemeyer
Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, forthcoming

Previous research has shown how, why, and for whom violent video game play is related to aggression and aggression-related variables. In contrast, less is known about whether some individuals are more likely than others to be the target of increased aggression after violent video game play. The present research examined the idea that the effects of violent video game play are stronger when the target is a member of an outgroup rather than an ingroup. In fact, a correlational study revealed that violent video game exposure was positively related to ethnocentrism. This relation remained significant when controlling for trait aggression. Providing causal evidence, an experimental study showed that playing a violent video game increased aggressive behavior, and that this effect was more pronounced when the target was an outgroup rather than an ingroup member. Possible mediating mechanisms are discussed.


Do human females use indirect aggression as an intrasexual competition strategy?

Tracy Vaillancourt
Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society: Biological Sciences, 5 December 2013

Indirect aggression includes behaviours such as criticizing a competitor's appearance, spreading rumours about a person's sexual behaviour and social exclusion. Human females have a particular proclivity for using indirect aggression, which is typically directed at other females, especially attractive and sexually available females, in the context of intrasexual competition for mates. Indirect aggression is an effective intrasexual competition strategy. It is associated with a diminished willingness to compete on the part of victims and with greater dating and sexual behaviour among those who perpetrate the aggression.


Signaling Dominance in Online Negotiations: The Role of Affective Tone

Liuba Belkin, Terri Kurtzberg & Charles Naquin
Negotiation and Conflict Management Research, November 2013, Pages 285–304

The present research looks at how people interpret power in negotiations based not just on control over objective resources but also on behavioral expressions of dominance as signaled through affective language in the limited-cues environment of electronically mediated communication. We further explore whether those interpretations of dominance shape negotiation outcomes. The results of an experiment, along with the linguistic analyses of the e-mail messages themselves, indicate that negative affective expressions (anger) online positively influence perceptions of dominance, while displays of positive affect (happiness) can signal the opposite, especially when coupled with low resource power. Moreover, we find that anger displays in e-mails can influence individual gains positively, while perceptions of dominance mediate the relationship between displays of happiness and individual outcomes. Implications are discussed.


Sex-hormone dependent perception of androstenone suggests its involvement in communicating competition and aggression

Katrin Lübke & Bettina Pause
Physiology & Behavior, forthcoming

Androstenone, a compound of human male body odor, might act as a chemosensory signal communicating dominance or aggressiveness. In order to clarify its communicative significance, the relationship between androstenone perception and the level of circulating steroid hormones was investigated in both men and women. Androstenone perception was assessed within n = 26 men and n = 25 women. Female participants were not currently using hormonal contraception and were in their follicular menstrual cycle phase. Androstenone perception was assessed in terms of olfactory sensitivity, quality judgments, and emotional self-ratings. The perception of isovaleric acid served as a control. Over the course of 2 h five saliva samples were collected, aliquots were mixed and levels of estradiol and testosterone were analyzed via enzyme-linked immunosorbent assays. In men, higher testosterone levels were associated with lower olfactory sensitivity to androstenone (p = 0.014) and negative feelings when exposed to it (p = 0.047). In women, higher estradiol levels were related to judging androstenone as less pleasant (p = 0.009) and more unpleasant (p = .0036). The perception of isovaleric acid was unrelated to sex-hormone levels. The current results support the notion of androstenone communicating dominance, aggression or competition. Men with higher testosterone levels are more sensitive to androstenone and dislike its odor, possibly indicating that androstenone signals the readiness for competition in men. Similarly, the fact that women with higher estradiol levels dislike androstenone may be due to androstenone being a signal of reduced willingness for social cooperation and an increased likelihood to engage in extramarital sex.


Digit ratio, emotional intelligence and parenting styles predict female aggression

Emily Sutcliffe Cleveland
Personality and Individual Differences, forthcoming

The contributions of digit ratio (2D:4D), emotional intelligence (EI) and parenting styles to social aggression were examined. Females (n = 215 emerging adults) completed 5 aggression measures, an EI measure, 2 parenting measures, and had their hands measured. Aggression correlated with each of the predictors. Left hand 2D:4D, EI, and parental authoritarianism resulted in the most robust model for predicting aggression. Implications are discussed.


When does Heat Promote Hostility? Person by Situation Interactions Shape the Psychological Effects of Haptic Sensations

Adam Fay & Jon Maner
Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, forthcoming

The current article provides evidence that the psychological consequences of incidental haptic sensations depend on motivations within the perceiver and, consequently, the effects of those sensations are moderated by motivationally relevant aspects of the individual and the immediate social context. Results from two experiments demonstrate that the physical experience of heat promotes hostile social responses, but that the strength of this effect depends on an interaction between factors in the person (level of fear of negative evaluation) and the situation (whether or not someone has just experienced rejection). People primed with heat (compared to neutral temperature) displayed increases in aggressive cognitions (Experiment 1) and aggressive behavior (Experiment 2), but those effects were observed only after rejection (not in a control condition) and only among individuals high in fear of negative evaluation (those who typically respond with agonistic motives following rejection). Findings suggest that motivationally relevant aspects of the person and situation are critical to understanding the priming effects of haptic sensations.

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