Do people aggress to improve their mood? Catharsis beliefs, affect regulation opportunity, and aggressive responding

  • Bushman B
  • Baumeister R
  • Phillips C
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Abstract

Do people aggress to make themselves feel better? We adapted a procedure used by G. K. Manucia, D. J. Baumann, and R. B. Cialdini (1984), in which some participants are given a bogus mood-freezing pill that makes affect regulation efforts ineffective. In Study 1, people who had been induced to believe in the value of catharsis and venting anger responded more aggressively than did control participants to insulting criticism, but this aggression was eliminated by the mood-freezing pill. Study 2 showed similar results among people with high anger-out (i.e., expressing and venting anger) tendencies. Studies 3 and 4 provided questionnaire data consistent with these interpretations, and Study 5 replicated the findings of Studies I and 2 using measures more directly concerned with affect regulation. Taken together, these results suggest that many people may engage in aggression to regulate (improve) their own affective states.

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