On the meaning of meaning when being mean: commentary on Berkowitz's "on the consideration of automatic as well as controlled psychological processes in aggression"

Aggress Behav. Mar-Apr 2008;34(2):133-5; discussion 136-8. doi: 10.1002/ab.20242.


Berkowitz (this issue) makes a cogent case for his cognitive neo-associationist (CNA) model that some aggressive behaviors occur automatically, emotionally, and through conditioned association with other stimuli. He also proposes that they can occur without "processing," that is, without meaning. He contrasts his position with that of social information processing (SIP) models, which he casts as positing only controlled processing mechanisms for aggressive behavior. However, both CNA and SIP models posit automatic as well as controlled processes in aggressive behavior. Most aggressive behaviors occur through automatic processes, which are nonetheless rule governed. SIP models differ from the CNA model in asserting the essential role of meaning (often through nonconscious, automatic, and emotional processes) in mediating the link between a stimulus and an angry aggressive behavioral response.

Publication types

  • Comment

MeSH terms

  • Aggression / psychology*
  • Attention
  • Automatism / psychology*
  • Conditioning, Classical
  • Displacement, Psychological
  • Hostility
  • Impulsive Behavior / psychology*
  • Inhibition, Psychological*
  • Internal-External Control
  • Mass Media
  • Models, Psychological
  • Personal Construct Theory
  • Prejudice
  • Punishment
  • Social Environment
  • Violence / psychology