Reduction Of Instigation To Aggression Via Verbal Retaliation (assertiveness, Reinforcement, Self-Esteem)

Date of Award




Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)




This study attempted to identify types of verbal response to insult that would reduce aggression instigation and explored some of the interpersonal and intrapersonal phenomena associated with aggression. The study was based on ideas from research on catharsis, equity, assertiveness, cognitive restructuring, self esteem, reinforcement, consistency, and adaptation level.The types of verbal response to insult were aggression, assertiveness, cognitive restructuring, and control-filler. An apology-no apology variable was factorally crossed with the four types of responding. Further, to facilitate assessment of aggression instigation and reduction, a no instigation control was added. Finally, because self esteem might moderate the effect of insult, the nine manipulated cells were crossed with self esteem.The experimental procedure was based on the Buss Aggression paradigm. The 126 male undergraduate participants, falsely believing they were teachers in a learning study, exchanged three letters with a confederate pretending to be the student in the learning study. The second letter contained the insult manipulation and the third letter the type of response manipulation. The apology manipulation occurred following the letter exchange. During the subsequent "learning" procedure, the "teacher" chose from ten levels of shock whenever the confederate made a "mistake."Results indicated that contentment decreased while anger, anxiety, and frustration increased following the insult. Following the Type of Response and Apology manipulations affect improved. This trend was strongest for verbally aggressive participants. Except for Verbal Aggression participants, apology generally reduced shock levels. Apology also tended to create greater Liking and better General Attitude toward the Confederate as well as increased Equity Resolution. For High Self Esteem participants only, assertiveness reduced Behavioral Aggression. However, Low Self Esteem Assertive participants delivered the most shock. All three experimental types of response produced feelings of relief with Verbal Aggression producing the most and Cognitive Restructuring the least.Results suggested that aggression was a function of instigation, dislike, inhibition, and disinhibition. Modifications to assertiveness conceptualizations were suggested. Catharsis and equity theories were not supported. Reinforcement and assertive conceptualizations, however, received some support.


Psychology, Social

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