Creating your own hostile environment: a laboratory examination of trait aggressiveness and the violence escalation cycle

Pers Soc Psychol Bull. 2008 Apr;34(4):462-73. doi: 10.1177/0146167207311282.


A dyadic interactive aggression paradigm tested hypotheses from the General Aggression Model about how trait aggressiveness can create behaviorally hostile social environments. Pairs of college student participants competed in a modified reaction time task in which they repeatedly delivered and received each other's punishments. The trait aggressiveness of both participants influenced the punishment intensities (aggression level) set by each member of the dyad on later trials. Furthermore, there was a pattern of escalation from early to later trials. These trait aggressiveness effects (both self and partner) on later aggressive behavior were largely mediated by partner aggression levels during early trials. Results also suggested two aggressive motives--hostile and instrumental--resulted from high partner aggression during early trials and these motives partially mediated the effects of trait aggressiveness and of early trial aggression on later aggressive behavior.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aggression / psychology*
  • Character*
  • Competitive Behavior
  • Female
  • Hostility*
  • Humans
  • Interpersonal Relations
  • Male
  • Models, Psychological
  • Motivation
  • Personality Inventory
  • Reaction Time
  • Social Environment*
  • Social Facilitation
  • Social Perception
  • Violence / psychology*