Friday, November 14, 2008

Go figure

PSYCHOLOGY: Don't Get Even, Stay Mad

Gilbert Chin
Declarations of unintentionality ("I didn't mean to hurt you") often suffice to defuse tense situations and to reduce or eliminate vengeful responses to a harmful act. But does the reining in of aggressive behavior reflect deliberate and effortful control of those impulses, or does the claim of a lack of purpose serve to dissolve one's anger?

Using a social evaluation setting, Krieglmeyer et al. obtain evidence linking the attribution of intention to a conscious overriding of impulsive aggression.

They presented students with positive or negative ratings (from an unseen partner) of their ideas for naming a new energy drink; half of the students who had received negative feedback were then told that their partner had mistaken the high-low direction of the rating scale and had in fact intended to assign them positive marks.

When assessed specifically for anger using an implicit measure and for behavior by means of the same rating scale, this set of students displayed a lower level of aggression as compared to the students whose negative assessments had been intentional (although they still exhibited a higher level of hostility than the students who had received positive ratings initially).

In contrast, learning that the negative ratings had been delivered in error and that the actual intent had been to send positive feedback had no effect on the levels of implicit anger. -- GJC

J. Exp. Soc. Psych. 44, 10.1016/j/jesp.2008.10.003 (2008).

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